Health

Despite Challenges, St. Charles Borromeo Specialist Hospital Growing From Strength To Strength – Rev. Fr. Okonkwo

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The Chief Executive Officer of St. Charles Borromeo Specialist Hospital Onitsha, Anambra State, Rev. Fr. Dr. Izunna Okonkwo speaks with Polycarp Ifeanyi on the new facilities added in the Hospital, economic challenges, alternative for patients who could not settle their bills, absence of government subvention to private hospitals among others.

WE HAVE SEEN SOME NEW FACILITIES IN THE HOSPITAL, HOW  DO YOU PEOPLE MANAGE TO SECURE THEM ?

Well, we are still moving from strength to strength. We keep on saying that the only thing that is permanent is  change. Our bio medical Engineer is  servicing some of our digital beds for distribution to different departments in the Hospital.

So, we are introducing new things on a regular basis. Right now, if you move up to our medical laboratory section, when last you visited, we told you that we have started some work. Work is ongoing there. We have contracted an Engineer who is expanding our alternative source of solar panels and inverter. This is because it is a challenging time in Nigeria and in our facilities when one is expected to buy a litre of diesel with over a thousands Naira.

If you match it with our income generations, it will be difficult to survive. So, we are seriously moving into alternative energy. We have some solar panels already installed but we need to expand as a way of reducing our running cost, otherwise, you find it difficult to break even at the end of the month before you know it, you may be shooting down the system which we would not like to do.

So, we are exploring a regular best alternative avenue for us to remain open and keep offering quality health services that are accessible and affordable to our teeming patients who are coming from different parts of Nigeria and even beyond.

DO THE HOSPITAL STILL RECEIVE PATIENTS AS BEFORE ?

We are no longer receiving patients as we used to receive. Not that people are not sick. A lot of people are sick but they find it difficult to go to hospital because the major problem we are facing in health care all over the world is who will bear the financial risk. Financial risk I  mean is who is going to pay for the services at the end of receiving health care services from different health facilities.

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So, in Nigeria where only an insignificant people has access to health insurance, we have a lot of people who are sick but at the end of day, they will  require to pay out of their pockets 100% and if you require somebody to pay out of pocket 100% and that particular person is  living below poverty level, it will be a difficult thing. So, some patients in Nigeria prefer patronizing quacks. Some of them even go to herbalists with all concoction and all the complications that are involved because a lot of people who are going through a lot of complications and various kinds of illness especially in the area of intestinal obstruction and rest of them. That is a time we have one thing or the other to do with seeking alternative ways of cure which is not in tandem with Orthodox medicine with all its after effects that are involved.

This is truly challenging and you know when there is reduction in the numbers of patients coming, it will invariably affect our revenue base and if it affects our revenue base, it will also affect our running cost and also other things we are doing in the Hospital. Surprisely and unfortunately too, we are not receiving any subvention from any form of government, be it local government, be it State government or Federal government.

So, it is a difficult time, we use this opportunity also to talk to appropriate authorities, local government, state government or Federal government not only to consider St. Charles Borromeo Specialist Hospital as private health facility but also other private health facility in different parts of the country because we are attending to the same Nigerians if you are talking of palliative or bursary. If you are talking of subvention, it will be something worthwhile to consider facilities that are privately owned in the country.

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IS THERE ANY ALTERNATIVE TO PATIENTS WHO COULD NOT SETTLE THEIR BILLS ? HAVE YOU PEOPLE MADE FORMAL REQUEST FOR GOVERNMENT TO GIVE  SUBVENTION TO PRIVATE HOSPITALS?

Whenever we have an opportunity to reach out to government authority, we do tell them but you know in a country we are living in, some people will try to run away from their statutory responsibility because if it is considered as a statutory responsibility, nobody will be asking anybody to do anything (Subvention) . Budgetary allocation and all the institutions concerned get it when they do. 

So, if it is considered a statutory obligation, nobody will be reaching out to anybody to make formal requests for this kind of thing. But, is  this kind of allocation one’s entitlement ?. Is it necessary ?. If it is not a necessary thing to do, must we get out of our way from office to the other in order to get money to care for human beings who are from the same locality?

So, there are the things we consider alternative to patients. We normally go the way of orthodox medicine but we give consideration to patients who find it difficult to pay bills because here, we have what we call (Life First) policy. We try first of all to save lives, to stabilize one who is in a critical situation before talking about money. Even at this point, we requested for money, some would not pay. 

But we don’t stop rendering Care even when services are not paid for because we  need to save lives, but in the end, some will not even pay because they don’t have money to pay. Some can sign undertakings that they can go out to raise money and come back to pay, right now, we have more than ₦100 million of naira which is yet paid by some people we attended to. Some of them we don’t know how to reach out to to recover them. So, it is really a challenging time but, at the end of the day, we have to pay our staff, a good number of them and also run our Hospital.

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IS THERE ANY WAY THE HOSPITAL RECEIVE HELP?

Our proprietor, His Grace, Most Rev. Valerian Maduka Okeke, the  Archbishop of Onitsha metropolitan of Onitsha Ecclesiastical Province and proprietor of Hospitals within the Catholic Archdiocese of Onitsha, his assistance aided us to be moving forward. He is so passionate about health care and education, of course, not neglecting other aspects of his pastoral involvement, but it seems that he puts more attention to health care provision, perhaps living his back ground of his motto, ” That They May Have Life and Have it in Abundance” Gospel of John chapter 10 vs 10. 

So, we give thanks to God. We give thanks to members of our governing board, we give thanks to our management team,  we give thanks to our staff who are working round the clock to make sure that patients who come to us receive optimal health care services, we give thanks to our partners especially partners from Hungary, AFREkA  humanitarian international foundation, we give thanks to other benefactors to us from all different parts of the world, from Japan, United States of America, from Ireland, to mention but the few, and even in Nigeria, we have philanthropist, Nigerian philanthropist who are helping us occasionally to make sure that our Hospital is opened, not long ago we received a lot of donations of Hospital equipment and even medication from Hon. Linda Ikpeazu.

We are still waiting for other Government officials to come to our aid . We remember somebody like Hon. Douglas Egbuna (Osite). We remember people like High Chief Prof. Obiora Okonkwo,  HRM Pharm. Alex Onyido, we remember somebody like Dr. Fidelis Mkparu, a renowned cardiologist based in USA,  Dr. Joseph Okolo, a cardiologist based in USA, Dr. Andras Csokay-Hungarian , Dr. Reka Fodor-Hungarian, Dr. Gyorgy – Hungarian, Dr. Linda Tharp- USA, Dr. Linus Offia- Nigerian in Ireland, Dr. Akari Fujisawa- Japanese, Dr. Alessandra Isidori- Italian, Chief Emeka Nwabueze, Chief Dr. Kevin Chimaobim ( APAMS Limited). 

We have nurses in Bulgaria, we have journalists like Susan Turner. We also remember journalists who are promoting our cause. We are partners in progress. We believe that together we can do better, a tree can not make a forest.

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