Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State on Thursday disguised and visited some government hospitals unannounced, during which he discovered officials collecting between N8,000 to N10,000 from patients for services meant to be provided free of charge.
Zulum had summoned the Commissioner for Health, Mrs Juliana Bitrus, and asked her to join him in a 10-seater bus that is usually used for airport services.
The governor left the Government House around 1:30 pm without his convoy and siren and headed straight to the newly established primary healthcare centre at Gwange II ward in Maiduguri where he found out that some workers were collecting between N8,000 to N10,000 before diagnosing and treating patients of common ailments such as malaria.
“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 into 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,” an unhappy Zulum said.
The governor directed the Borno State Primary Healthcare Agency to thoroughly investigate, identify all the culprits and take appropriate disciplinary actions.
Zulum decried that the same primary healthcare centre had only one medical staff on the ground to attend to patients despite having 29 health workers on the government payroll.
“You can imagine that at 2:00 pm, 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” Zulum added.
The governor proceeded to a similar primary healthcare centre at Gwange but found medical workers on the ground attending to patients without extorting them.
While noting that he was happy with the development, the governor commended the staff for being good people.
The governor has since formed the habit of showing up at odd hours including midnights at hospitals and early mornings at schools, for on the spot assessment of essential public services, some of which require him to drive hours from Maiduguri, the Borno capital.