By Uzor Maxim Uzoatu
Oxygen is life. Where there is no oxygen there is no life. It’s cool to stress that Anambra State bustles with oxygen. It was indeed a sparkling breath of fresh oxygen when on his birthday, Thursday, August 8, Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano inaugurated a multi-million naira medical oxygen plant at Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Amaku, Awka.
In the words of Governor Obiano, “Oxygen is life and a critical component in the delivery of healthcare service, and that is the reason my administration decided to invest in this project.” Accompanied by his wife, Ebelechukwu, and many dignitaries such as former Anambra State Governor Chukwuemeka Ezeife, former Deputy Governor Emeka Sibeudu, Obi of Onitsha Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and the Speaker of Anambra House of Assembly Uche Okafor, Governor Obiano described the oxygen plant inauguration as “memorable”.
The special 64th birthday treat by Governor Obiano resonated with his earlier plea that well-wishers willing to spend various amounts of money to pay for goodwill wishes in the mass media should instead channel the various amounts to any charity of their choice or to donate in particular to the Caring Family Enhancement Initiative (CAFÉ), a nongovernmental organization founded and headed by his wife.
By investing in the oxygen plant, Obiano has driven healthcare delivery in Anambra State to a laudable new level. He was magnanimous by applauding the contributions of the immediate past Anambra State Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Akabuike, in the execution of the project which had reached 95 percent completion before the commissioner left last month, though he is now the chairman of the state’s School of Nursing.
The governor revealed that the installed oxygen plant had the capacity to serve not just the hospitals in Anambra State but also beyond. He then directed that all 500 primary health centres in the state should be given two oxygen cylinders free, adding for good measure: “After the two, hospitals will pay for the oxygen they will come to demand from this plant.”
The oxygen plant is a regenerative investment which is well poised to yield commercial benefits to the state in the drive to vastly accelerate the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
While astutely thanking Governor Obiano for the landmark project, the Chief Medical Director of COOUTH, Dr Basil Nwankwo, stated that the state had invested more than N2 billion in the hospital in the last couple of years. The cited projects include mother-and-child clinic, mega laboratory, attracting of a dedicated electricity line which now provides more than 20 hours power supply to the hospital, among others.
For the new Commissioner for Health, Dr Vincent Okpala who until recently was practising medicine in the United States as a highly respected specialist, the oxygen plant in Anambra has positioned the state to blaze the trail in medical tourism. Anambra State would thus be the place to call by patients from all over the surrounding states with ailments like respiratory insufficiency, acute pneumonia, heart failure, energy generation, lung malfunction etc.
The former Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Akabuike, who played a pivotal role in rendering the project said that the plant had an initial completion period of six months and was valued at about N500 million.
The Managing Director of Anambra State Oxygen Production Plant, Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim, stressed that the plant was capable of producing 200 standard oxygen cylinders daily. According to Dr Ibezim, “It is in a bid to ensure that emergency situations and many challenging health conditions of Anambra people are met that informed the building of the plant. Oxygen is important to the human body, especially in cases of trauma as a result of accidents, contraction during labour or severe asthma, when certain levels of oxygen will be needed to resuscitate victims. The World Health Organisation (WHO) standard sets that you just don’t administer oxygen from air; you need to give a certain percentage of oxygen to assist in the revival process. Oxygen content is set at 93 percent purity, plus or minus 3, which means the content must not get below 90 percent or above 96.”
The oxygen plant in Anambra State is currently the biggest in the South-East and was built primarily to meet local demands from medical installations in Anambra State and beyond.
Mrs Mary Unachukwu, a housewife, who witnessed the inauguration of the oxygen plant tells this interesting story thus: “I had a malformed child in 2005. She had spina bifida. We could not even source for oxygen around. My husband and I had to travel to University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan in search of treatment for the baby. The child died because of the time wasted before we could give her the necessary medications. With this new plant in COOUTH people will no longer suffer as much as we did. The former challenges of ailing patients in Anambra and surrounding states can now be said to be over. Our prayers have at last been answered. God bless Akpokuedike!”
The oxygen plant at COOUTH, Awka is indeed a clear and present need.