Dr Inyang Asibong and the health revolution in Cross River State ….A call for continuity

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The Cross River State Health sector has over the years developed and maintained a deliberate pattern of delivering top-notch services, moulding human capital and fostering infrastructural development across board to ensure high quality, accessible, efficient and patient-centered care for all citizens of all ages.

Interestingly, these revolution and achievements were made possible through the committed efforts of the state Ministry of Health, headed by a young, hard working and dynamic medical practitioner, Dr Inyang Asibong, a lady that perfects a rare construct combinations of both fluid and crystallized intelligence, beautiful and soft spoken.

She assumed office in November 2015 with a mandate to revamp the health sector by driving government’s policy in providing affordable healthcare to residents in the state, ensuring the rehabilitation and remodelling of primary healthcare centres, ensuring adequate distribution of health equipments across the state, collaborating with health partners and donor agencies, upgrading General Hospitals and advising the government on health management in the state.

Upon assumption into office, with the desire to deliver on her mandate by making healthcare accessible and affordable, she spelled out a ‘Strategic Direction’ (2015-2019) which included Partnerships, Human Capital Development, Infrastructure Development, Health Service Delivery, Information Management System, Health Financing, Community Involvement and Staff Welfare.

In achieving a universal health coverage in the state, the ministry built and strengthened the primary healthcare system into a full fledged agency as well as attaining a state health insurance scheme tagged `Ayadecare’ to revitalise healthcare. With primary healthcare institutionalised, many residents and citizens could access services in close proximity to their communities.

Currently, there are 1,013 primary healthcare facilities spread across the 18 local government areas in the state due to her committed effort in quality healthcare delivery in collaboration with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency.

The ministry under her leadership hosted the Cross River State Health Summit in 2017 and the Cross River State Council on Health in 2018 with a view to improve healthcare delivery in the state. Both events were attended by the Minister of Health and House of Representatives Committee Chairman on Health, including stakeholders in the health sector and development partners.

According to the former Commissioner, the focus of the two events were to create a platform for engagement and synthesising the opinions of Crossriverians on achieving Universal Health Coverage and to make available quality and affordable healthcare to all citizens.

Today, the state has available 54 well equipped Primary Health Centres, with each local government area in the state having three with other health posts to meet their health need.

During the period of Lassa fever, the ministry established a lassa fever response centre at Moore Road, Calabar to urgently handle any case that will relate to lassa fever. Though there was no recorded case of lassa fever in Cross River, however, she carried out aggressive sensitisations on the print media, social media and airwaves on protective measures to be adopted.

Due to her intensified monitoring and evaluation of health facilities and institutions in the state, the school of Midwifery Ogoja got her first ever full accreditation and the approval for the school of Nursing Obudu to commence basic Midwifery programme respectively by the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria. Interestingly, under her leadership, for the first time in nearly a decade, the state has in full functionality her six school of nursing and midwifery which guarantees the constant training and retraining of health workers.

During the period under review, she was always in the field, touring the hard to reach areas by motorcycle and through the waterways on improved advocacy and sensitization, data mining and reporting to fast track development agenda and providing guidance to ensure that no one is left behind as the continent progresses towards sustainable and equitable health.

As Commissioner, she commissioned the VVF center at Ikom where she facilitated the repair and reintegration of over 300 VVF patients across the state free of any charges.
The Ministry also opened adolescent friendly centers as well as rape and drugs enlightenment centers in General Hospitals and TB diagnosis and treatment centers across the 18 Local Government Areas of the State.

Asibong, a woman with zeal and passion for her job, positioned the health sector as the most performing MDA in the Ayade administration.

During her Commissionership, we witnessed the repair of ambulances and other serviceable vehicles that have been in a state of disrepair for years (Refurbishment of dilapidated vehicles.

*Accreditation of General Hospital Calabar for House man ship training.

*Provision of Functional X-ray equipment in four state General hospital, (Ukem) Odukpani, Calabar, Ugep and Ogoja.

*Free health care to pregnant women and children under five years.

*Functional eye care hospital at college of Health Technology and General hospital Calabar where number of surgeries performed increasing from 5, 223 in 2014 to 29,192 in 2017 representing 458.42% increment.

As a matter of fact, she has reflected the trust bestowed upon her by Governor Ayade’s administration inspite of all challenges. Rather than allow some challenges weigh her down, she successfully transformed the state health sector positively by providing a comprehensive quality healthcare service in some of the remote communities in Cross River State.

It is worthy to say that the very good people of Cross River State can testify to the good deeds of Dr Asibong’s willingness and zeal to drive the positive image of the state government health sector to a greater height.

The former Commissioner, who was also the Vice Chairman of Health Commissioners Forum in Nigeria, bowed out of office with admiration from stakeholders and encomiums from her colleagues, staff, development partners and the state government.

Perhaps, if four years of committed and excellence services has reshaped the health sector in Cross River State, then there is a need for continuity and reappointment of Dr Asibong into the health ministry with a view to build and consolidate on the sterling achievements recorded within the past four years in other to achieve a Cross River State Health sector of our dream.

On the day of her handover, she unveiled the sterling achievements recorded by the ministry in a brochure format titled ‘The Pulse of Paradise”, where she captured the revolution of the health ministry and the future of the state health growth and development.

In view of her amazing achievements, she was announced the winner of the CrossRiverWatch 2017 Man of The Year award.

Also in 2018, Dr Asibong was adjudged as the best performing Commissioner of the year 2018 by the Nigeria Media Award Group.

Furthermore, in 2019, she was presented with the PAN African Good Governance award for adding value for the progress and growth of Cross River State.

Dr Asibong, a team player, an innovative, creative and media friendly personality has attended several international workshops and health conferences to chart a way forward for the health sector. She is a recipient of several international awards and membership of various health organizations.

She is always thankful and grateful to Gov. Ayade for finding her worthy and capable to serve in the health ministry in his first term in office.

All in all, Dr Asibong should be reappointed on the basis of performance, steadfastness, dedication to duty and the amazing boost and facelift she gave the health sector in Cross River State.

George Odok Jr

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