By SaharaReporters, New York
Startling revelations are emerging in across hospitals in Delta State that the government’s well-publicized free health maternal care services for pregnant women and children under five years of age are nothing but deceptive political propaganda characterized by gross extortion of pregnant women.
At the Ughelli Central Hospital, our investigation shows that pharmacists and the Medical Director have turned the purported free health programme of the Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan administration into a lucrative business, allegedly hoarding the drugs that are then sold to patients, and sharing the money.
Since the inception of the exercise, our reporter can authoritatively report that over 70 percent of the program has seen payment for ante-natal treatment, delivery and treatments of children under five, contrary to the propaganda of the government that such services are now free.
A similar situation exists at the Central Hospital, Sapele, where, for treatment of children under age five and pregnant women, families are being made to pay between N4,000 and N5,000.
What is worse, those undergoing ante-natal treatment and as well as those due for labour are tasked with buying 12 litres of diesel to power the generator for the theatre.
It was found during our investigation that drugs that originally were meant for ante-natal mothers are being hoarded and taken to private pharmacy stores. Apart from the branded “Uduaghan Paracetamol,” virtually every other drug needed for the free Under-Five and Maternal Health Care programmes are being bought outside the hospital.
Further investigations have revealed that these extortions are been carried out across the state’s hospitals and monies not remitted to the state coffer.
At the Oleh General Hospital, headquarters of the Isoko South local government area, a six months pregnant woman, Mrs. Francis Juliana, who went for ante-natal and the treatment of her three year old, was made to cough out the sum of N4,610.000 and N2,500, 000 respectively including other unaccounted payments.
In an interview with our reporter, Mrs. Francis said the payments were made between December 28, 2012 and January, 1, 2013 at the hospital as all attempts by the patient’s relative to find out what the payments were meant for proved abortive. As in other government-owned hospitals throughout the State, nobody was willing to give them a definite answer.
Displaying some of her receipts of payment at the hospital, Mrs. Francis lamented what she described as the deceptive free maternal health care programme of the Uduaghan’s administration.
An impeccable hospital source at the Okwe General Hospital in the state capital, told our report, “There are a list of drugs by the government to be given free to patients under the Under-Five and Maternal Health Care treatments but are being sold out and is not as if the state government is not aware of such practices as no single culprit has ever be prosecuted by the government hence the practices have continued in nearly all the hospitals across the state.”
In a related development, the Ughelli Central Hospital has been termed a den of hoarding and selling of government drugs meant for patients.
Being accused are the pharmacists, Mr. Miller H. Eguriase, the Head of Pharmacy Department of the hospital, Mr. Oscar Amatesiro and the Medical Director, Mr. Moses Eyovwerhuvwu and other staff.
They are allegedly involved in the selling of drugs into their private pockets, hoarding of drugs, and diverting of drugs meant for the so-called free maternal health care programme to private pharmacy stores where patients are directed to purchase drugs.
A staff told our reporter that such cases are not peculiar to a particular hospital as it has become a normal practice in government owned hospitals due to lack of proper supervision and checks and balances by the Delta State Hospital Management Board, the Commissioner of Health and the supervising Ministry.
Our reporter gathered that Mr. Eguriase has been sacked for allegedly defrauding the state government by hoarding, diverting and selling drugs but is insisting he was sacked for exposing illicit practices in the hospital.
The embattled Egurias has written a petition, made available to SaharaReporters, entitled “The wrongful Termination of my Temporary Appointment by the Honourable Commissioner for Health Delta State (Dr. Joseph Otumara) without Fair Hearing given to me in Breach of the Civil Service Rules”. It was addressed to the Director of Pharmaceutical Service; the Permanent Secretary and the Commissioner of Health, both of the Delta State Ministry of Health, as well as others. The petitioner indicted the Head of Pharmacy Department of the hospital, Mr. Oscar Amatesiro and the MD alleging that they are the main culprits involved in the drugs racketeering.
Mr. Eguriase accused the hospital Medical Director, Mr. Moses Eyovwerhuvwu and the Head of Pharmacy Department, Mr. Amatesiro of drugs racketeering in the hospital which are meant for patients.
“My appointment was terminated because of my refusal to play ball with Mr. Amatesiro, who had at various times boasted that he would get me out of the system using his Itsekiris’ connection to sack me from the Ministry despite his culpability in the misconduct of directing patients to his private pharmacy which is a walking distance from the hospital as against the 200 meters away as stipulated and a calendar with his pharmacy address, phone number and picture hanging in strategic locations and offices all over the hospital. I am not allowing Mr. Amatesiro to run the pharmacy department as a personal enterprise so as to enable him (Amatesiro) make up for the huge deficit accumulated between August 2012 to December 2012 amongst other criminal activities in connivance with the MD.”
Investigations have also revealed that the state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Otumara, Mr. Amatesiro’s kinsman, has deliberately ignored the calls to investigate the alleged involvement of Mr. Amatesiro, Mr. Eyovwerhuvwu, the MD and all those involved in the scandal.
When contacted, Mr. Amatesiro and Mr. Eyovwerhuvwu debunked all the allegations, claiming they are merely the fallout from an election for the position of the MD where his candidate, one Dr. I. Cheikwe, lost out as MD.
All calls and text messages to Dr. Otumara’s for his reaction on the issue at stake were ignored, but staff in his office who pleaded for anonymity disclosed that the Commissioner and the governor are merely deceiving Deltans with the so-called free maternal health service.
According to the staff, “There is no way the commissioner can exonerate himself of all these malpractices going on in the hospitals across the state. When the issue of the Ughelli Central Hospital was brought to him, instead of setting up a panel to look into the issue as well as looking into some petitions brought concerning the issue, my boss deliberately kept deaf ears because his Itsekiri kinsman, Mr. Amatesiro and some of his loyalists were involved in the racketeering and he went ahead to sack one particular person just to deceive the people that government doesn’t condone such sharp practices. Ask him how many persons they have sacked since the inception of the programme, or are workers not being caught in the act?”
Reacting to the developments by text message, the Commissioner of Information, Mr. Chike Ogeah, stated, “Well this is a bad news for us in the government as a few bad eggs are bent on rubbishing the hard earned image of this government in the Health sector knowing how passionate the Governor is about this sector. We shall investigate all such malpractices and culprits will face the full wrath of d Law.”
Meanwhile as of the time of this report, it was reliably gathered that the management of the Ughelli Central Hospital has doled out huge sums of money to some local journalists to kill the story.