Established in 1937 by the Medical Missionaries of Mary, as an arm of the nunnery of the Catholic Church, with an initial number of twelve beds, St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua in Uyo, has risen over the years to its present 500 (five hundred) bed capacity. It was for decades the foremost medical outpost in the then South Eastern State, and earned a considerable reputation for herself as a major maternity port.
Specifically, the Medical Missionaries of Mary founded the hospital purposely to help the mother and child. Mother Mary, who led the body, was concerned about the number of fatalities recorded during childbirths and so conceived the hospital.
St. Luke’s Hospital was endorsed by the General Medical Council in Lagos
and London, as both recognised the hospital as a Centre for training pre-registration House Doctors.
The School of Nursing, Anua, was established as an auxiliary of St. Luke’s Hospital, about the same period to attain the equal status as the Nursing School in the United Kingdom. St. Luke’s Hospital thus became the sole Hospital recognized for training of nurses in the whole of the then South Eastern States of Nigeria. The institution’s strategic importance was such that it became the spine for subsequent and complementary medical outposts including, St. Mary’s Hospital Urua Akpan, Mount Carmel Hospital Akpa Utong, St. Theresa’s Hospital Use Abat, and other rural clinics and Dispensaries in places like Eman Uruan, Ibiaku Uruan, Idu Uruan, Mbiaya Uruan, Mbak Etoi and Idoro. St. Luke’s Hospital released its bulk of Doctors and Nurses routinely visited at regular intervals to deliver healthcare services in these satellite health outposts. The most significant point to note however that, this hospital is the cradling birthplace for an awesome percentage of Akwa Ibom people and beyond. Beyond maternal healthcare, the hospital also became renowned for other medical services.
However, such illustrious history and celebrated tradition is what was starkly compromised by systemic recession and infrastructural decay over the years. From being a major regional medical hub, St. Luke’s Hospital, diminished in status and facility, to become a shadow of its glorious past. Its functionality in the recent past, was at best, as a primary health centre.
It was this dilapidated condition of the facility that drew the attention of His Excellency, Governor Udom Emmanuel, as soon as he mounted the saddle of leadership in Akwa Ibom State. This could not have been otherwise, for as the Governor himself revealed, he was born there, many years ago.
It was not surprising therefore, that on the third day after taking his oath of office with a pledge to sustain superior performance; the governor visited the once celebrated St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua. On that fateful day, June 2, 2015, the Governor personally assessed the extent of decay in both medical equipment and infrastructure. He virtually broke down in tears by the realities that confronted him after inspecting the theatre,
Gynaecology, Children, General, and Paediatrics wards, among others. Accompanied by the Secretary to State Government, Sir Etekamba Umoren, and received by the Administrator of the hospital, Rev. Fr. Charles Essien, the governor made a pledge to turn around the institution. He welcomed discussion and unfettered co-operation with the management of the hospital with a view to rewriting the story of the institution.
The governor said, “This tour around the hospital is to show that the present government is interested in the well-being of its citizens. It is our concern and focus to have quality medical care in the state, which is why we would partner the hospital”. He acknowledged that, “The hospital has been a long-standing hospital that has served the nation and the people, which is why we need a partnership that works and not the partnership of ego or sentiments. Because we need this hospital to work and for the people to see progress, I am not interested in changing the name of the hospital but only to see that the hospital works”, he declared.
He said he is looking forward to holding more discussions with the Catholic community, and appealed to the Catholic Church to get on the same page with Government sans sentiments.
Walking his talk, Governor Udom Emmanuel, as part of his government’s intervention in the missionary facility, directed immediate commencement of work to rehabilitate dilapidated structures in the hospital, as well as a remedy of the threatening gully erosion at the School of Nursing, adjoining the hospital.
Pronto, the much needed intervention commenced. In addition to rehabilitating and refurbishing the Paediatric and Male blocks, a brand new block was constructed in the hospital. The new 300-bed capacity block, called Dr. Ann Ward, Gynaecology, was in honour of Irish missionary, Dr Ann Ward, a frontline gynaecologist who earned legendary status for her expertise, dedication and distinguished service in the hospital for decades until her retirement.
So it was that, on September 22, 2015, as part of activities lined-up to mark the 28th anniversary of the creation of Akwa Ibom state, Mr. Udom Emmanuel kept a personal vow he made, while seeking office as Governor, that if God gives him the opportunity, he would revamp the hospital.
Inaugurating the projects, which also encompassed landscaping, internal roads and a retouch of the perimeter fence, Governor Emmanuel stressed that with the upgraded facilities, the hospital will
render complementary healthcare services alongside the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital. He added that, as people from within and outside the state come calling, medical tourism will be boosted, given that services rendered in the hospital will hold a prime place in the hearts of the people who patronise it.
Speaking on the new lease of life at the hospital, the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mr. Aniekan Umanah, who took some journalists on a tour of the facility, said he was not surprised at all. According to him, “those who know Governor Udom Emmanuel will attest to his integrity and penchant for doing the right things in excellent ways.”
Mr. Umanah hinted that “the turnaround at the hospital is a foretaste of the many good things the Governor has in stock for the people of the State. I can tell you that on the first anniversary of this administration, come May 2016, Akwa Ibom people will be more than grateful to God for having His Excellency, Mr. Udom Emmanuel as Governor.” He added that he was very happy that the renaissance in the health sector started with St. Luke’s Hospital, being a facility with rich history of excellent reputation in medical care.
The immense value of this intervention was evident in the remark of the Catholic Bishop of Uyo Diocese, Most Reverend John Aya, who expressed appreciation to the Governor for renovating the hospital. Bishop Aya was unequivocal in stating that the facility shall stand as a testimonial to generations unborn, assuring Governor Emmanuel of their prayers for the success of his administration.
The Deputy Superior General and member of the Medical Missionary of Mary, Rev. Sister Ekaette Ekop, on her part, emphasised the sentiment
associated with the construction and naming of the newly built Gynecology Ward after Dr. Ward. According to her, Dr. Ward, now aged 80, offered blessing to the Governor from far away Ireland, as she is deeply touched by the recognition and honour accorded her by the State.
Very much like the overwhelming number of the good people of Akwa Ibom who trusted the governor with their mandate, youths and people of Anua Offot, where the hospital is located, in particular, and Uyo in general, thanked and celebrated the Governor for accomplishing the feat within a record 78 days in office. Nurses and other members of the hospital community expressed their happiness about the positive development through various dance steps that said more than a thousand words could.
Now restored to its lost glory and occupying a pride of place, St. Luke’s Hospital Anua is an ubiquitous testament of the recently launched dakkada initiative, a clarion call on Akwa Ibom people to rise to excellence and greatness in every field of endeavour.
Viewed through the prism of dakkada, therefore, the resuscitation and revival of the hitherto decrepit and dwindling St. Luke’s Hospital, speaks surely of Governor Udom Emmanuel as a leader by example.
St. Luke’s Hospital, Anua, is just one of the many interventions the Udom Emmanuel administration has brought to bear in the different sectors of the State. In his avowed commitment to industrialise Akwa Ibom, the Governor has, within last four months that he came into office, performed the groundbreaking for the establishment of a number of industries. Also, to he has flagged-off the construction of many roads across the three senatorial districts of the State, among other remarkable accomplishments.
Given the apparent commitment of the Mr. Udom Emmanuel to take Akwa Ibom to the next level of socio-economic pedestal, the least that can be expected of his people therefore, is to join hands and faith with him. Bound as one people by a common faith in their potential for true greatness, for the restoration of the vision and dream of the forbears of a state that flows with the proverbial boom of milk and honey, Akwa Ibom people, please, dakkada with your performing Governor!
-Ubong Akpan is a public affairs analyst