George Odok | Calabar

The University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) is a tertiary hospital built to serve Cross River State and its environs and train medical doctors and other paramedical work force for the State and Nation. It is a second generation teaching hospital in the country. It shares this appellation with the Teaching Hospitals of Jos, Benin, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri and Ilorin. The first generation being Nigeria’s premier University College Hospital Ibadan, and those of Lagos and Ife.

A visit to the other hospitals of same generation however leaves much to be desired of UCTH Calabar. In recent times, the hospital has been bedeviled with various challenges. It has severally been on the news for all but the wrong reasons leading many to allude to a possible failure of the leadership. Not long ago, the Chief Medical Director (CMD) and several others where docked on allegations of financial impropriety.

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 There was another trending issue of a doctor reporting essential gas (oxygen) racketeering. Several cases of armed robbery have also occurred. A doctor who claimed anonymity reported that in two instances, female doctors were sexually molested while on night duty. Recently, the House officers in the hospital had to down tools in a protest of the frequent robberies and attacks.

 According to a nursing staff who insisted anonymity, stealing of phones and patients’ belongings is now a norm as there is hardly a security man on duty. A visit to the hospital shows the grass may have not been cut for over four months, not even during the board visit.
The current administration is now in its twilight. A new CMD is about to be appointed. This appointment is guided by the Teaching Hospitals Board Reconstitution Act. The act stipulates that the CMD will be appointed by the President of the Federal republic following a recommendation by the Board of the Hospital.

 Such a person must be MEDICALLY QUALIFIED, have been so for at least 12 years and possess a postgraduate medical qualification for at least 5 years. In the Teaching Hospital setting, this appointment is made from the cadre of Clinical Consultants from within and outside the hospital after a well-publicized advertorial.
In the selection process, it has been customary for the board to seek guidance from the Clinical Consultants from whose stock the new leader is expected to emerge.

In 2010, following the election, the consultants overwhelmingly voted for one Dr Ikpeme Ikpeme (now Professor) a Consultant Orthopaedic surgeon. The PDP Presidency of Goodluck Jonathan in its wisdom appointed the current CMD who was a distant 5th in that selection process. The rest is history.
Yet again, with angst by the decay in the system, the consultants have overwhelmingly voted for the same Professor Ikpeme.

Information at our disposal showed he scored 48 votes with his closest rival, another Prof of Orthopaedics Prof Ngim Ngim pooling 22votes. Dr Edet Ikpi (Former Commissioner of Health) and Dr. Ofem Enang the other gladiators to the throne scored 11 votes each. While 5 other contestants scored 2 votes each. The result appears to be an overwhelming support of the consultants for Prof Ikpeme. This they believe could be the panacea for the present debacle of rot, decay and total loss of confidence in the system by clients.

 Information at our disposal also showed Prof Ikpeme who also holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) was still the number one candidate in the Board’s written and oral interviews. This interview was witnessed by representatives of ministry of Health and Presidency. The assessment borders on the mission and vision of the candidates for the hospital and evidence of capacity to attract grants to the hospital.

Whether this will translate to rapid turn-around maintenance of the institution is still a matter of conjecture.
The final decision of who becomes the CMD however rest only with the President as enshrined in the act. His tenure of office is also determined by the President as enshrined in the act which states thus “The Chief Medical Director shall hold office at the pleasure of the President". Customarily, it has always been a 4year term renewable for another 4years making a total of 8years.

This, many in the health sector argue is too long and posit that it should be for a single term of 5years as is the case of Vice Chancellors and Directors in the Civil service. Whoever emerges as CMD however has an uphill task and definitely needs the critical support of his constituency, the Consultants.

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