The Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH) at Oghara in Ethiope West Local Government Area is the state’s apex health institution providing basic training, research and medical services.
It was established to give skilled health care through the training of undergraduate medical students, residency training of doctors and paramedics.
But since June 10, 2010, when it was officially inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan, DELSUTH had been plagued by multifaceted problems, ranging from industrial unrest, low staff morale, brain drain, poor funding, massive infrastructure decay, and epileptic power supply.
But with ongoing renovation of the institution by the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa administration, there is hope the tertiary health care centre can reclaim some of its lost glory.
Dr Onome Ogueh, the chief medical director (CMD), believes the old narrative is gradually being replaced by a culture of medical excellence as envisioned by its founding fathers.
He says his priority, besides ensuring the hospital was run professionally, is to change the hearts and minds of “people who work here to have the right attitude towards the care that we provide.”
The CMD, appointed a little over three years ago, outlines his strategy for revamping the institution.
He says: “My management team has been doing a bit to reposition DELSUTH. We have approached this in various ways. One of the things we have done since I came on board just over three years ago is to make sure that all our departments are accredited for providing clinical services at a tertiary care level. For instance, for the first time we have full accreditation for Paediatrics, Radiology and Radiography, Orthopaedic, Cardiology, Neurology, etc.”
Continuing, he says “we have also ensured that we employ adequate staff for proper service delivery. We now have, for instance, a consultant dermatologist for the first time in DELSUTH. We have also employed a cardio-thoracic surgeon. We did not have one in Delta State before now. So, we are beginning to develop a cardio-thoracic surgery service. We have also employed a restorative dentist for the first time in Delta State. We are now developing a restorative dentistry service.”
He admits that for DELSUTH to play its multifarious role effectively, it requires annual subventions from government.
But Ogueh says his team is “already looking outward”. According to him, the management is exploring other avenues to generate revenue, such as “engaging in the production of medical consumables, sanitisers to hospitals, etc.”
His words: “Like all government hospitals and teaching hospitals in the world, DELSUTH requires subvention because unlike ordinary hospitals, we do not just deliver clinical services. We do more than that. As a teaching hospital, one of the pillars of the things we do is to provide research that will help to improve the quality of the services we give to the people. We also provide training for medical students, training for postgraduate doctors, and to be able to train medical students and postgraduate doctors, we need all departments to be accredited and this requires proper funding.
“We also need to train postgraduate doctors so we can have specialists that can provide specialist services in the state and in the country, and to train these people require funding. These are things you cannot achieve with internally- generated revenue. So, I must say we need to have more.”
One of the strategies includes approaching wealthy Deltans and corporate bodies to contribute towards development of the hospital.
The CMD notes that the move has yielded astounding results. “For instance, I can tell you that one of the new services we brought in is an optic laboratory. That service was funded entirely by an individual from this community. That service has been running for few years.”
He says other revenue sources being explored include leveraging on the hospital’s competencies, such as specialisation in nursing by providing services for students from other universities, including Ladoke Akintola University of Technology at Ogbomosho in Oyo State.
Dr. Ogueh says because his team emphasises medical research, internationally-recognised researchers from DELSUTH are currently engaged in research into specialised fields.
His words: “We are doing quite a lot in terms of research. Because we are a teaching hospital, we have professors, senior lecturers, and lecturers, whose pact of agreement is to carry out research, and some of the research involves international collaboration.
”For instance, we have a programme that we have been running with UT South-Western, U.S.A, where we are collaborating to do research into kidney disease. We have different types of research going on. We are in the process of setting up a telecardiology research where we can begin to view people with heart conditions or research into heart conditions by telemedicine. You are sitting here in Oghara and you are able to do some kind of consultation in Lagos or elsewhere. That is one area we are doing research collaboration. We are doing research in many other areas because that is what makes us different from the general hospital. We do research into the services that we are providing to ensure that we provide the best for patients.”
He says DELSUTH possesses a fully equipped Radiology Department, and an MRI machine (which is of the highest standard), adding that the institution provides training for resident doctors from the University of Benin Teaching Hospital and University of Calabar Teaching Hospital.
The CMD notes that the tertiary health care institution is breaking grounds in the area of a paediatric cardio-thoracic surgery unit.
He says paediatric cardio-thoracic surgery is not done in Nigeria, adding that the vision of the institution is to run the service on a regular basis.
“One of such is the setting up of a Paediatric Cardio-thoracic surgery service in DELSUTH. The governor has already approved funding for it because as we speak the only way one can get paediatric cardio-thoracic surgery is to go to America, UK, Israel or India, or when people from those countries come to do outreach programmes here. That is the only time one can have it. What we want to do is a regular service and we are in the process of setting that up in collaboration with Hospital for Humanity based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.”
But Ogueh thinks his most astounding success is the cordial relationship blossoming with the host community and trade unions in the institution.
He says prompt payment of salaries and other emoluments by the government have lifted the morale of workers, adding that regular medical outreaches and support for local festivals have closed the gap in the relationship with the host community.
“We have bridged that gap and that is why, for instance, we have a football tournament that involves the community. We also reach out to the people during festive periods. During their traditional festival, Christmas, etc. we always give our support. We have bridged the gap that there was,” he offers.
Despite lamenting the deleterious effects of brain drain on the institution, Ogueh believes the country’s medical community stands to benefit in the long run.
According to him, “the other take I have with the brain drain issue is that sometimes, maybe it is even good for our people to go out there because when they go out there, they get more exposure because of the infrastructure they will meet there, which will improve their knowledge and experience. Some of them will bring this knowledge and experience back to Nigeria and use that to help develop the health service.
Continuing, he says: “… you are looking at a man who spent 28 years in the UK, Canada and America before coming back to Nigeria. The knowledge and experience I picked up in my sojourn is helping me to manage this place in the way I have been doing. For example, in the UK, because I was interested in management, I went through leadership training that has prepared me in leading this institution. Part of that leadership training involved my coming to Nigeria 10 years ago to do some work and help set up this hospital.”
Before his appointment, he was a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Associate Medical Director with Brighton and Sussex University Hospital in the United Kingdom.
He also served as an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer with Brighton and Sussex Medical School in Brighton, United Kingdom.
How DELSUTH is preparing to battle COVID-19
Delta State University Teaching Hospital (DELSUTH) at Oghara in Ethiope Local Government Area has put measures in place to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD), Dr. Onome Ogueh, says the management, with support from the government, has constant supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); face masks, gloves, hand sanitisers, etc. ”which we have consistently made available for use by our staff during this period.”
He adds: ”DELSUTH has a designated Isolation/Treatment Centre for COVID-19 with a screening protocol that is followed strictly with triage centres established at all clinics/ward entrances as well as the main hospital gate. This is to ensure that suspected cases are identified while making sure some form of clinical services delivery continues within the hospital”.
Dr. Ogueh notes that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa has been very proactive in preparing for COVID-19, saying the hospital has benefited through staff training, procurement of equipment and facilities’ upgrade.
He informs that ”management is aware that the state government is planning remuneration for all staff involved in the COVID-19 response team.”
The CMD says at this critical period, management counts on workers to give their total support in battling this pandemic.
Delta recorded its first case as of 9:45 pm last night. But the state had never relaxed its resolve to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic despite not having had an index case until on Wednesday.