Health, they say, is wealth. This is because access to qualitative and affordable healthcare, according to the United Nations, solves most of the basic challenges facing the people, especially rural dwellers.

Working towards this goal through the provision of accessible, affordable and quality healthcare delivery to the people of his constituency, the member representing Ilaje constituency 1 in the Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Abayomi Akinruntan, is in collaboration with the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, to give medical support to the people under primary healthcare services.

Also involved in the collaboration is a non-governmental organization, Equitable Health Access Initiative (EHAI).

Towards this end, the representatives of the NGO and the NHIS in Ondo State have visited two out of the 18 health centres in the constituency in preparation for the commencement of the health insurance scheme.

The two health centres visited are Ilowo Comprehensive Health Centre, which is strategically located in the centre of the riverside communities to serve the people of the riverine area, and Ugbonla Basic Health Centre in Ugbonla.

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The team observed that the health centre in Ilowo community, which was built some years ago by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, to provide quality healthcare to the people of the riverine area and contracted to be managed by the Ondo State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission, OSOPADEC, was in a terrible shape.

During the visit, the two members of staff met on duty, who took the team round the facility, decried the level of abandonment of the centre by OSOPADEC, urging the state government to show more interest in the maintenance of the health centre.

One of the staff said: “All the equipments are not working and we can’t treat patients. I have been working here for over 10 years; this place was serving the people of the riverine area but for like three years now, we’ve not been getting support from OSOPADEC who is managing here again.

“The only thing we get is our salary; no equipment, no drugs and the staff quarter is not functioning again. We now refer our patients from the riverine here to the upland in Ugbonla Basic health centre or Igbokoda General Hospital. It has not been easy for the staff here”.

However, the condition was a bit better at the Ugbonla Basic Health Centre as the place has just been renovated by consolidated oil company, Conoil.

The Head Nurse, who took the team round the health centre, appreciated the regular support of the Local Government, adding that even though they are still facing some challenges but with time they will overcome them.

Speaking at the palace of Olugbo of Ugbo, the initiator of the projects, Hon. Abayomi Akinruntan, said he has decided to bring relief to his constituents after realising the challenges they face in accessing affordable quality health care.

His words: “Our people, especially in the riverine area, face a lot of problems to access quality health care in their communities. It’s expensive and not easy moving pregnant women and emergency cases with boat or canoe from the riverine to the upland.

“I saw the need for urgent intervention on their health facility in the riverine area and I have decided to put it upon myself not minding the harsh economy and foot the bill of delivering quality health care for my people. This tour was for us to access the level of readiness of the centres to provide such services”.

In his reaction, the NHIS Director in Ondo State, Mr. Simon Adeniji, commended the lawmaker for giving them a platform to deliver the federal government initiative to the people of Ilaje constituency 1.

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He said that the aim of the NHIS is to ensure that communities, especially the rural areas, have direct access to quality health care across the country at no or low cost, adding that the motives behind their visit was to take a look at the infrastructure on ground at the health centres and strategize on how to deliver good and quality health care to the people.

The CEO of the EHAI, Dr. Akinmurele Timothy, admitted that Hon. Akinruntan has done a good and noble thing by being passionate about the welfare of his people, adding that only those who have their people in mind will decide to bear the cost which he highlighted to be about 800 naira monthly per person and the programme on commencement is targeting 300 beneficiaries.

The team, after the inspection of the facilities, paid a courtesy visit to the Olugbo of Ugbo land, Oba Frederick Obateru Akinruntan, who described it as a laudable project and good initiative.

The monarch added that the state of the health centres in Ilaje is worrisome, calling on the state government to intervene on the health care of the people of the riverine areas. He promised to collaborate with the team in achieving their goal of delivering better healthcare to his people.

Those in the team included Mr. Bayo Olatunji-Shegede, SSA to the Governor, Dr. Ogunfeyimi Omoniyi, CMD General Hospital Igokoda, Pharm. Abodunde Olufunmilola, State Coordinator (EHAI), Hon. Francis Omosegbon, Supervisor for Health, Ilaje LG, Hon. Anjorin Jedo, Councillor, Ugbo Ward 4 and Hon. Aribo, Councillor, Ugbo Ward 3, Hon. Justina Mekuleyi, Supervisor for Works and TeamABA