Emelego, a coastal community in Odual clan, in Abua Odual Local Government Area of Rivers State is more of settlement than a community. With its relics, it no doubt received government attention in the past especially in the old Degema division, with ancient administrative buildings spread within the community.
The community also boast of a 60-bed hospital built by the Alfred Diete-Spiff administration in 1973. the said hospital was commissioned 15 years later in 1987 with twenty beds by the Anthony Ukpo administration. But today, the Emelego General Hospital which was designed to service the over 14 communities of Odual clan, with an estimated population of 35,000 people by the 1991 Census in Moribund. Contrary to reports that the hospital is functioning effectively like other general hospitals in the state, a recent visit to the hospital revealed that the hospital had been out of use over the years. The hospital has been taken over by grasses rodents and reptiles.
Paramount Ruler of Emelego community, Chief Maxuel Peters who spoke with the Weekend Tide during the visit decried the level of neglect and infrastructural decay in the hospital.
Chief Peters, a retired Head Master, alleged the people of Odual clan, Emelego in particular had suffered untold neglect from successive governments as they lack access to modern amenities of life. He said the people relied on the Emelego General Hospital, the only one in the area for effective medicare but at present the hospital in a state of disrepair. “It takes the effort of the community to clear the surrounding, bush at the hospital premises regularly. There are no labourers or cleaners at the hospital, the few staff posted here cannot perform their duties well because, the hospital is not working. All the departments are not operating, the people of Emelego are at health risk” he lamented.
Harrison Enaanokodidio, Vice chairman of Emelego Community Department Committee, (CDC) was rather emotional in his response.
“We in Emelego Community are law abiding people. We believe in community spirit and we appreciate what ever we have. We are not happy over the level of neglect of our hospital. We are tired of cutting the grasses. We want the government to intervene and save us from this embarrassing situation. In the spirit of patriotism, we built a Police post for the Nigeria Police, we want the governor to come and see things for himself”.
Joseph Ipeghan, a community leader also corroborated the story of the Paramount Ruler and the (CDC) Vice chairman. He said it was extremely painful that at the moment the people of Emelego have no potable water.
Eugenia Johnson, a woman leader also narrated to The Weekend Tide the ordeals of women in the area. She lamented that the poor state of the Emelego General hospital posed grave challenges to women in the area especially during child birth. “Because the hospital is not working, we have to rely on traditional birth attendants for delivery as it is difficult for us to go to the city because of transport difficulties and most women die as a result of this.
The Weekend Tide also spoke with Youth Corpers serving in the community.
Uluoma Ibe, a female Corper who graduated from Nekede Polytechnic who teaches at Government Secondary School, Emelego was worried about the plight of the people. She said the people of Emelego were in dive need of basic amenities and appealed to the Government to come to their rescue.
Another Youth Corper serving in the area, Jacob Etiyene said he wanted to be reposted on his first arrival to the area because of lack of amenities. But was encouraged by the hospitality of the indigenes.
Etiyene who is the Cordinator of the Corpers in the area, also appealed to government to remember the people of Emelego in the scheme of things. Also commenting, the resident doctor, George Ela said the level of rot in the hospital hindered his professional duties. At best the medical doctor, said he had been running was an out-patient clinic because he cannot admit any patient because all the departments are in decay. Dr Ela expressed dissatisfaction over the state of the hospital which had reduced him to performing just 10 per cent of what he is expected to be doing as a resident doctor.
Like other community members, Dr Ela get water for domestic use from the swamp and as revealed by him, emergency situations in the area was akin to suicide because of difficulties in transportation in case of references to Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital or the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital. He therefore appealed to the authorities to as a matter of urgency intervene and save the people.
When contacted, the new Chief Medical Director of Rivers State Hospitals Management Board, Dr Weli confirmed that staff are actually posted by the Hospitals Management Board to the Emelego General Hospital, but declined further comments on the state of the hospital, stating that he lacked the competence to do so.
Supervisory Councilor for Health, in Abua Odual Local Government Area, who doubles as the Vice chairman of the council John Idum also refused to comment on the issue. When contacted on phone, the press secretary to Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr Sampson Parker, said the Commissioner could not be reached as at press time because of an ongoing, seminar programme organised by the health ministry. However, he assured that the ministry was poised to addressed issues of health sector reforms with a sense of responsibility and commitment.