As FMC Owerri Resolves Leadership Crisis. The leadership crisis rocking the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, Imo State, has been resolved –giving way to the resumption of clinical services in the facility generally believed to be one of the best medical centres in the country.
The resumption of work in the hospital followed the federal government’s directive to the embattled Chief Medical Director (CMD), of the centre, Dr. Mrs. Angela Uwakwem, to proceed on compulsory leave, and the appointment of Prof. Ndubuisi Ekeh, as the acting CMD of the Centre.
Indeed, the leadership crisis was put to rest following series of deliberations between federal government officials and stakeholders in the health sector, as well the intervention of the House of Representatives Committee on Health Services, chaired by Deacon Chike Okafor.
Beyond the appointment of Prof. Ekeh as the new acting CMD of the centre, a five-man committee entrusted with the responsibility of manning the administrative, technical, operational and financial functions of the health institution has also been put in place.
This according to the House Committee on Health Services was done with the intention of restoring interrupted health-care delivery system to the citizenry.
Meanwhile, peace and tranquility have returned to the once turbulent edifice as doctors, nurses, paramedical personnel, and other staff of the medical facility have returned to their various duty posts.
Consequently, the hospital has once again started taking care of both in-patients as well as out-patients, a development which has brought great relief to residents of Imo State and neighbouring states in both the South-East and South-South.
Commenting on the inauguration of the caretaker committee, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, charged the members to brace up and work for the development of the establishment, stressing that “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
In his contribution, Deacon Okafor, stated that following the inauguration of the caretaker committee, peace has finally returned to FMC, Owerri.
Also lending his voice to the new development, the new FMC boss, Prof. Ekeh, promised to work assiduously so as to deliver on his mandate.
The FMC Owerri which is situated on the Owerri Orlu Road could aptly be described as the epicenter of qualitative health care delivery services as it has over the years, successfully handled all manner of ailments.
Nevertheless, the FMC, which from its inception enjoyed enviable prominence, fame and credibility in the provision of health care delivery services, was later to sink into a state of abyss following protracted face-off between the workers and the management led Dr. Uwakwem.
The workers had persistently accused Uwakwem of high-handedness in the discharge of her duties, dictatorship, victimisation, witch-hunting, graft, personal aggrandizement and unprecedented financial impropriety to the detriment of the medical centre and the very people it is meant to serve.
The combative workers also alleged that the CMD planned to privatise some departments of the centre, in addition to awarding contracts to her cronies without due process, especially without going through the tenders’ board.
Indeed, the sins allegedly committed by Uwakwem are legion. They include, alleged withholding of salaries and promotions of qualified staff on trumped up charges, as well as outright intimidation of labour leaders.
Ostensibly fed up with her intransigency and stubbornness despite repeated overtures made to her to shift ground, the workers’ commenced an indefinite strike action to press home their demands.
This gave birth to a hurried discharge of inpatients, already on admission with relations of such patients relocating them to other hospitals, most of them lacking the requisite equipment and medical personnel to cater for the medical needs of the patients.
Besides, making bonfires in front of the main entrance gate of the centre, the striking workers padlocked the main entrance gate of the medical facility, and put the key out of the reach of Uwakwem and her management team.
The protesting workers who figuratively turned themselves into local vigilante group consistently appeared in black attires and chanted solidarity songs throughout the period that the strike lasted.
Expectedly, men of the Imo State police command were regularly on hand to forestall possible break down of law and order.
While the strike lasted, officials of the Federal Ministry of Health intervened to find lasting solution to the impasse. In fact, the ministry officials convened several meetings between the striking workers and the Angela Uwakwem led management to resolve the imbroglio, but all to no avail.
The restive workers insisted that Uwakwem must resign or be redeployed to spare them from further agony, grief and pain.
Consequently, a commission of inquiry was put in place by the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Health to look into the grievances of the workers.
The commission which drew representatives from both the Federal Ministry of Health and the workers themselves could not consummate its assignment when the workers’ representatives, apparently smelling a rat, pulled out of the commission – alleging clandestine moves to give the embattled Uwakwem a clean bill of health.
True to their suspicion, a white paper released by the commission exonerated Uwakwem of the sundry allegations leveled against her; a development that not only infuriated the workers all the more, but compelled them to embark on an endless strike which could be described as the strike of the millennium, and which thoroughly crippled activities at the medical institution.
Although normalcy appears to have been restored, the scars brought about by the restive staff are still manifest as the centre seems to have lost public patronage to a reasonable extent.
There is mounting apprehension by some members of the public that the centre had lost attraction and credibility more so as some of her medical personnel are reported to have resigned out of frustration in search of greener pasture.
Historically, what is known today as the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Owerri, was established in 1904, by the then British colonial masters as a military hospital to cater for the health needs of British soldiers who were then engaged in the war of conquest of territories in Igboland.
The facility was later renamed African Hospital, and with the passage of years, it was converted to a General Hospital to provide the health needs of not only soldiers but also civilians living in the area and beyond.
The existing health policy in the country provides that primary health care is to be provided by local governments; secondary health care by state governments, while the provision of tertiary health care is the responsibility of the federal government.
In operationalising this policy, the federal government decided to establish at least one tertiary health institution in each state of the federation.
And so, Federal Medical Centres (FMCs), were established nationwide in states that do not have Federal University Teaching Hospitals. The exception to this rule is Lagos State, which has one such centre in addition to a teaching hospital.
It was in line with this policy that the federal government – apparently fired by the zeal to meet the ever growing health needs of the masses as well as to actualise its mantra of health for all by the year 2020 – later took over the proprietorship of the General Hospital, Owerri, and renamed it Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri.
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