HTML5

Sunday, 29 January 2017

I Was Blackmailed For Allegedly Putting UCTH Funds In MMM— Prof. Agan, CMD

Professor Thomas Agan is the Chief Medical
Director of University of Calabar Teaching
Hospital, UCTH, and the Chairman, Committee of
Chief Medical Directors of Tertiary Hospitals in
Nigeria. In this interview, Agan speaks on the
challenges facing teaching hospitals in the
country.
You have been in office for about five years.
We know that as an administrator you must
have challenges, one of which is the issue of
staff salary. How have you have been coping?
The truth of the matter is that the UCTH does
not owe staff salary. In October, November
and December 2016, we had a shortfall which
was a national challenge. In fact, the first two
hospitals to be affected were the Federal
Teaching Hospital, Irua and the Federal
Medical Centre, Yenogoa.
You are also aware that at the beginning of
last year, the Federal Government reduced
personnel allocation to Ministries, Departments
and Agencies ,MDAs, by about 10 per cent and
most of us who knew this told our staff that
we were going to have shortfall and that
they may not receive October salary. Some of
them thought we were unserious. I was even
blackmailed that I put their money in MMM,
and I don’t know what MMM means. I won’t
do that, you don’t touch people’s money as
they have wives and husbands who depend on
them.
Luckily, the Federal Government corrected the
shortfall because money was sourced and paid
to all MDAs that had shortfall, including
teaching hospitals. So when people say we ate
their money, going around blackmailing us that
we put funds in MMM, I look at them and
laugh because there is no truth in it. UCTH and
most teaching hospitals across the country are
not owing staff salary.
What about salary and promotion arrears in
the university teaching hospital system?
Promotion arrears in the teaching hospital
system date back to 2013 when IPPIS came in.
The Federal Government has not been paying
promotion arrears since 2013. In 2013, they
made part, payment, promotion arrears for
2014 to 2016 have not been paid. Even the
promotion that was done in 2016 in most
teaching hospitals, including Calabar, the report
has not come out from the Federal Ministry of
Health. The implication is that we depend on
our supervisory ministry, and if money is not
given to you, how do you pay? For now, 2014,
2015, 2016 and part of 2013 promotion arrears
have not been paid. Government has calculated
it, it is in the budget office and all that is
needed is for the Federal Minister of Finance to
give cash –backing. The government is doing
their best to ensure that civil servants in the
health sector do not suffer unnecessarily
because it is their right not a privilege.
Outside salary arrears and promotion, what of
the area training of doctors- what has your
administration been doing about it in terms of
sponsorship?
When you talk of sponsorship, there hasn’t
been budgetary provision for sponsorship. At a
time we were paying sponsorship from
personnel allocation but we were stopped. For
instance, if I am given N6 million to manage
this teaching hospital- this overhead is
supposed to take care of diesel supply- a truck
load of diesel of 40,000 liters is how much? It
is almost N12 million. Then you talk of other
things. You need to buy stationery, you need to
do repairs, you need to maintain, and you need
to do all kinds of things. The overhead cannot
carry the head. So for now, we owe resident
doctors sponsorship allowance and we are
appealing to them to exercise patience, by
God’s grace, government will take into
consideration some of these things. Some of
these things are things that if we look critically
inwards, we can resolve.
Recently, you tried to do away with outsourced
services in UCTH. Was it an internal decision or
the decision came the Federal Ministry of
Health?
The decision to outsource services is a
government decision- some of the services
being rendered by staff were outsourced. The
staff affected include security personnel,
cleaners, laundry. The implication is that a
contractor will now bid and then recruit people
to come and do those jobs. Unfortunately,
something went wrong and since 2009 till date
government has not been funding it. So, there
no budgetary provision for outsourced services.
We were funding from internally generated
revenue.
Between 2009 and 2012, we were paying from
personnel. In 2012, ICPC invited some of us
and gave us stern warning over it and even
wrote to us that we were liable to be jailed if
we pay that way. It came to a point where we
were asked to pay from capital allocation and
as the budget is coming out it is expunged. So,
we are owing part of 2013, 2014 and 2015. As
I am talking, many of them have taken us to
court while some have assaulted us physically,
and some have even gone as far as assaulting
our family members.
As of November 2016, we are owing about
N229 million to outsourced companies. As
Chairman of the Committee of CMDs, I have
written to the Minister of Finance to authorize
the payment because it is their right, not a
privilege.
Let’s talk about infrastructural development in
UCTH. Could you let us know how far it has
been in terms electricity, the state of the
theatre, the toilets and bathrooms?
When you talk about infrastructural
development, it has been very slow because of
the dwindling economy. Recession is affecting
everything in this country. I can tell you that
from when I took over in 2011, we had capital
budget of about N600 million, out of which
only 52 per cent was released. In 2012, we
had about N400 million, out of this only 48 per
cent was released. In 2013, out of about
N400, only 38 per cent was released. So it has
continued to dwindle.
This hospital was constructed in 1977 and,
somewhere along the line, it was abandoned
and then hoodlums removed the glasses, the
roof and everything. Well, we have moved in
but it is not possible do what we should do.
We couldn’t develop because you can give what
you don’t have.
Besides infrastructure, electricity bill is one of
our greatest challenges. In fact, we pay almost
N6m monthly. And in the absence of public
power supply, the generators are functioning
very well. We have a 515 KVA generator
mounted inside the laboratory and it can supply
electricity to the entire hospital. It is just that
I don’t like them to do that because it can
break down easily. We also have a 500 KVA
generator mounted at the theatre which
supplies light to the theatre and some parts of
the hospital. Recently we contemplated
acquiring a 200 KVA generator only for the
radiology department because the equipment
there are very sensitive- they cannot withstand
public power supply. Due to this off and one,
the equipment there break down easily, so we
are working on that and we will get it soon.
Let me take you back to some of the issues
patients have been complaining about. One is
the issue of drugs revolving in the hospital.
How functional has that scheme been?
You know too well that when the Federal
Government introduced the Treasury Single
Account (TSA), every money generated, whether
it is from drug revolving fund or from
anywhere, must go to the TSA. There is
nothing special about TSA, so any money that
is going there is utilized. Secondly, if you
generate N5, 000 and you are looking for N10,
000, from which subhead do you get that
money? If the pharmacy generates N5, 000 and
they are looking for N10, 000, where do you get
the money from? The drug suppliers claim that
the hospital is owing them, the hospital cannot
owe you. Suppliers are being paid, not that
they are not being paid. Sometimes I hear
stories outside and they gets me very offended-
that because they are owing GRF, who is
owing GRF? Is it the teaching hospital or
government? We are paying and we will
continue to pay, anybody who is being owed
will be paid fully. I have vowed that this 2017 I
want to clear as much as possible all debts
owed to some of these people so that I will
have peace. When I am leaving, I leave in
peace.
Let me take you back to the issue of the
Committee of CMDs. Doctors allege that the
committee is responsible for the crisis in
hospitals. What crisis are they talking about?
The crisis the doctors keep raising is that the
CMDs don’t cooperate with them, they don’t
discuss with them. Every staff is staff and as a
chief executive, you don’t just come and open
the books and announce on television and
radio that government has sent you money for
this or that. It is administratively wrong.
Sometimes people have to know the basics, it
is not everything you analyse to staff. Worse
still, people who need positions are the people
who instigate crisis in hospitals.
They are not only instigating resident doctors,
they are instigating other staff. They blackmail
you; write petitions to EFCC, ICPC, police
headquarters, media, every nook and cranny of
the world. I have told doctors nationwide that I
am ready to solve their problems as long as
they are ready to stop striking unnecessarily. I
will join the Federal Government to solve their
problems which are very minor as far as I am
concerned. Abroad you pay school fees to be
trained as a resident doctor. In Nigeria
government pays you and trains you. As far as
I am concerned, it is a privilege and not a right
because they are paid salary.
The Minister issued a directive on the detention
of patients following inability to pay hospitals
bills. As the Chairman of the Committee of
CMDs, what is your response?
The truth of the matter is that people are not
ready to pay; it is not that there is no money
to pay. Nigerians want to be treated free, not
that they don’t have the money. Now we insist
that anybody that comes must pay deposit
unless the person comes unconscious, and they
are pp
aying. Nobody should deceive you that
they don’t have money; they will tell the public
that they are being detained but they are not
being detained by anybody.