The Vice-Chairman of Eleme Local Government, Mrs. Virtue Ekee, tells EMMANUEL OBE in this interview that cases of hypertension, prostate cancer are increasing among women and men in the area.
Does the local government have any scheme it has put in place to enhance healthcare delivery in the area?
We have a healthcare scheme.
What is it all about?
We have primary healthcare scheme. We are giving a total of 100 persons. The scheme covers minor and major surgeries. The scheme, 50 percent is on the council and 50 percent is on the HMOs. So, if you have a surgery that is major, the HMO covers 50 percent, the council covers 50 percent. But if it is minor cases, everything is covered by the council. So far, we have registered a hundred persons. We started this scheme in June this year. Right now, we have six major surgeries ongoing. We are about making payment for that. Other minor cases are being taken care of.
What kind of people can benefit from this programme?
The indigents; the real indigents, not people that can afford healthcare.
How do you determine who is indigent?
By recommendation and physical assessment. We called them. They came here. We screened, we assessed before they were documented. A doctor would check your case. If the case is not that serious, we don’t.
Is it a kind of health insurance scheme?
Yes. It’s a health insurance scheme. It’s an open scheme that we bought. It’s N15,000 per person that covers the enrollee for one year. We bought for a hundred persons under Eleme LGA. So, what the HMO offers is 50 percent for major surgeries. It’s renewable every year.
Is it distributed according to wards?
Each ward gave us ten persons.
Is there discrimination according to sex and age?
No. Let’s say it depends on the severity of the cases, not according to sex or age.
There is this cottage hospital in Obio/Akpor, Obio Cottage hospital.
That is what our dream is. Having been in charge here for some time, you may have found out what cases are prevalent in Eleme Local Government Area. Generally, we have more of typhoid, malaria. We have hypertension cases increasing every day.
Mostly in the female circles. It is increasing. For the men, prostate. We have one programme on prostate screening sometime last year. But, the awareness for prostate is low.
Somebody noted somewhere that men are always hiding their prostate issues.
Yes, people were expected to come forward. I was part of the scheme, that programme. We covered for a hundred persons. I don’t think we got up to 50 persons that day. The publicity was wide. I got there and I was like, what happened?
That means men need a special sensitization for them to come out.
Yes. For women, we have had issues about cervical cancer, breast cancer and people no longer feel any stigma about them. But for men…
Prostate sounds like something is wrong with you.
Men have an attachment to their manhood and everybody hides it. It is like it needs more awareness. So, people can easily declare the issues they have without feeling that they could be stigmatized; so that they can come out and find solution.
Is it really increasing or the thing has been there but the awareness is low?
I won’t say it has been there. Generally it’s been increasing, not limited to Eleme alone. Generally, it’s increasing. It is just as this hypertension thing is a general thing but we are localizing our own interview to Eleme. That’s why I said it is increasing in Eleme. When we do most of these free schemes of checking BP, you see a healthy lady and she wouldn’t know that she has BP. BP now is like a silent killer and they don’t know. I think another thing we should look into is the awareness for frequent BP checks, sugar level.
What do you think is responsible for the hypertension and BP?
I would say it’s the economy. Most people get it through heredity. But sometimes, our daily activities how hard we find ourselves, how hard we work affect our general health. So, the harshness of the economy would make people to do a lot of things and forgetting that their body needs rest, their body needs attention. We are about chasing our daily bread, how to survive and we are neglecting the basic needs of the body.
Does the food we eat contribute?
It is part of it too.
Are there partnerships you have with corporate organizations on health in the local government area?
Not on this this…
Have you initiated any?
No. There is this idea that local governments should shoulder their responsibilities by themselves. The only people we are trying to do partnership with is Indorama. We have not concluded yet and how successful that aspect of it would be.
Are there any special ailments that you find in Eleme because of the industrial environment?
We haven’t yet researched on that.
What is your relationship with the Ward Development Committees that work with the health centres?
Like what you are saying now; all these information I am giving you, they brought it. What is happening in your own ward? The health centre in your ward, what is happening? What are you doing security-wise? What are their needs? They give us information from the wards. We meet periodically and we talk about it. We carry the information that they, to the state if we cannot handle it at this level. They are like our foot soldiers in the communities.
How are you involved in training healthcare personnel at the community level like the TBAs?
The ones we can handle we do.