By Bukar Bolori
Borno State Governor, Professor Babagana Zulum on Thursday during a sting exercise to two government healthcare centres in Maiduguri discovered some officials extorting patients by collecting between N8,000 and N10,000 for service which was mandated to be without charges.
A statement by the spokesman to the governor on Thursday, Mallam Isa Gusau, said his principal disguised his convoy and visited some government healthcare centres unannounced, during which he found some officials collecting between N8,000 and N10,000 from patients, whereas the services are meant to be provided free of charge.
According to Gusau, the governor who had summoned the State’s Commissioner of Health, Mrs. Juliana Bitrus, asked her to join him in a 10-seater bus that is usually used for airport services and took her out on a sting activity.
He said the governor left the Government House around 1:30pm without any convoy and without siren, leaving everyone surprised and wondering, Gusau said the health commissioner was not even wary what lied ahead as she was not told of the plan by the governor.
The governor subsequently led the team straight to the newly established and fully equipped primary healthcare centre at Gwange II ward in Maiduguri and found that some workers were collecting between N8,000 to N10,000 before diagnosis and treatment were conducted on patients for even malaria.
The statement quoted the governor to have said after the sting exercise, that: “The staff we met here (at Gwange II, PHC) confirmed that they use to collect between N8,000 to N10,000 from patients to treat malaria. In fact they have turned this Government Health Centre to a private hospital, and this is why the centre has been deserted by people who mostly do not have the money to access services here. The workers just collect money and put it in their pockets.”
Zulum subsequently directed the Borno State Primary Healthcare Agency to thoroughly investigate, identify all the culprits and take appropriate disciplinary actions.
Zulum was also to discover at the Gwange II PHC that it has only one medical staff on ground to attend to patients, despite having 29 health workers on the payroll of the state government.
Reacting to this, the governor said: ‘You can imagine that at 2:00pm, this primary healthcare centre we built and fully equipped is empty (because of extortion and without medical staff). This level of impunity cannot be tolerated. The earlier we address it, the better for all of us.”
The governor later proceeded to a similar primary healthcare centre at Gwange I, but had a pleasant experience.
At the Gwange I, he found medical workers on ground attending to patients without extorting them.
The governor, who was apparently happy, commended the staff for being good.