National Obstetric Fistula Centre (NOFIC), Abakaliki, Ebonyi state weekend said the hospital has treated over 3,800 fistula and prolapse clients free of charge. Fistula is a continuous leakage of a woman after delivery as a result of prolonged labor.
Successfully treated clients were from different parts of the country. The hospital said over 2, 800 Vasico Virginia Fistula (VVF) clients were treated, over 1,000 Uterine prolapse clients were also treated.
The federal government took over NOFIC, in 2011, it was initially South East Fistula Centre, it started as a pet project of the immediate past the first lady of Ebonyi State, Mrs. Josephine Elechi who was interested in Maternal and Child Care Initiative (MCCI). She worked with the pioneer medical director, Professor Sunday Adeoye.
The federal government took over the hospital when it metamorphosized from Maternal Child Care Initiative to South East Fistula Centre as a federal health institution and it was called National Obstetric Fistula Centre. There are three in this country, the first one is the fistula center in Abakaliki then others include Kastina and Bauchi.
The new Medical Director of the hospital, Dr. Johnson Obunna stated this in Abakaliki while speaking to journalists.
He explained that lots of women in villages across the country were suffering fistula and urged them to visit the hospital for treatment.
Dr. Obunna said that as their responsibility, the hospital visits rural areas to sensitize women on safe delivery through qualified government hospitals and also fish out clients who are already dying in shame and treat them, despite the fact that it is not a money-making health institution.
He further explained that the wombs of many women have been blocked which makes it difficult for them to get pregnant through a conventional method which according to him, the center handles so that they can give birth.
He said NOFIC conducts IVF at a subsidized rate of N250,000 but fistula clients are free.
Obunna appealed to Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), government at all levels, public spirited individuals, corporate bodies to donate consumables and funds to the hospital, so as to render its humanitarian services to the people.
He said, “There are five mandates for this hospital; training, rehabilitation, research, treatment free, and prevention. People come all over the country for training here free. We train medical students, nurses, anybody that is interested in the fistula.”
“There are some women especially those who have a fistula, they cannot get pregnant. Their tubes have been blocked, maybe their husbands can’t produce sperm again and they cannot get pregnant through the conventional methods. Some of them couldn’t get pregnant till they reach menopause, we bring such people here and we treat them.”
“We do what is called system reproductive technology or popularly known as baby transplant. We make them to get pregnant; we give services free for fistula patients. It is put to the general public at a subsidized price, if you go to Abuja, you can pay N1m. We do it free for fistula patient, if you are not a fistula patient, we collect N200,000 or N250,000, just a little thing, then we use the money to treat the fistula clients.”
He also explained that the center has a cancer screening center for men and women where people access services free as well.
Contributing, the head of the mobilization, Dr. Henry Urochukwu, emphasized that no amount of money from one source will be enough for the treatment of fistula, hence the appeal for donors, good-spirited individuals to assist the hospital.
Dr. Urochukwu enjoined women journalists to lend their support by attracting helpers to the center for the interest of other women who are challenged.
Chief Matron of the ward, Mrs. Ekoh Bridget on her part thanked God for the spirit and strength given to them to take care of the clients.
Mrs. Bridget said, “It has not been easy, but by the grace of God, we are moving ahead. It gives me the joy to see them.”
“Before they come, they have lost all hope, but after the treatment and their catheters removed, they praise the Lord and we dance with them, showing gratitude to God. That alone gives me joy as a nurse working in a fistula center.”
Some of the clients shared their experiences with Citizens’ Advocate, with a call from public-spirited individuals, international donors to support the hospital which has become a hope for the hopeless.
One of the beneficiaries, Azi Goodness, “I’m from Oshiri, Onicha LGA. I thank all who helped me in the course of my sickness. I started suffering this sickness after giving birth. I suffered where I went to give birth before I was delivered through CS.”
“Two weeks after the operation, I saw myself in this condition. The most unfortunate thing was that I lost my baby. When I discovered that I have VVF, I started running helter-skelter and along the line, I was directed to Onitsha Ngwa, Abia state. On getting there, I was referred to the VVF center here in Ebonyi state and I was very happy because it is closer to me. I stayed for three months at home before coming to the hospital.”
“On getting here, I was treated very well, everything is free, but I must plead with the general public and NGOs to also assist in the provision of some of the things we use here including the drugs.”
“When I was in the village, suffering this sickness, people were mocking me, when I pass by; they used to cover their nose that I was smelling urine.”
“My husband is no longer with me because of the sickness. I’m happy that now I have been operated on, I have stayed here for one week and everything is done free of charge.”
Ndeb Sally said, “On May 13, 2019, I was trying to give birth at a Cross River hospital where I came from, but it was not possible, they now took me to the theater for operation. After the operation it was discovered that I have a fistula, so from there I was referred to VVF center here in Ebonyi.”
“I was told to stay for 3 months before coming for the surgery. So after the 3 months, I came back, they did the surgery and it was successful.”
“I have one child alive, the one that led to the operation didn’t make it. I had protracted labor. Everyone here is wonderful, they treat us well, they are not biased, and we feel so at home.”
“My plea is that everything here is done without any charge and I learned that if you are to go for the surgery elsewhere it will cost up to N500,000 and you know that most mothers can’t afford such.”
“When good spirited individuals and government help, most of the drugs needed here will be provided. The quality of food here is okay and the center needs to be assisted.”
Mrs. Chigozie Onyeuka said, “I’m from Imo State, I have been here for close to three weeks, I developed VVF in May when I went for fibroid operation. Eight days after the operation, I noticed that I was leaking urine, and I went back to the hospital, the doctor said I should remain with the catheter that everything will correct in six weeks time.”
“But the six weeks came and passed, yet no change, that was when the doctor referred me here. Immediately I stepped in here they told me they would handle it that I should go and come back for the surgery.”
“From the card to what we eat, no dime is collected. I’m very happy, the first place I went for treatment, I was told that the consultation fee is N10,000 before anything could be done.”
“I kept the sickness to myself and my family, I didn’t expose it, but I spent a lot in buying pampers. I used to buy N2000 pampers in less than two days. I used it to protect myself.”
“I have four kids, and the family just saw the whole thing as temptation, it got to a point when my husband was no longer happy about the situation, but we continued to manage ourselves. But as you can see now I’m okay, I feel like flying to heaven, I’m so excited.”
The former chairman, Nigeria Medical Association and now the MD, VVF center, Dr. Johnson Obunna said, “Many people are not aware that VVF center is not part of FETHA. Many people think it is an integral part of FETHA. The reason for this interaction is to let people know that this center is a full-fledged hospital-like FETHA and National Obstetric Centre is a federal government health institution.”
“We go to the village to fish them out. We feed them free, treat them, we also train them so that they can start life after here. The center has also been recognized as a centre for cancer treatment. So up to a week, 50 to 100 persons come for cancer screening. We treat things that dehumanize women. We have included screening men for cancer.”
“So this hospital is not for IGR. We depend on federal allocation which we all know that the allocation is very bad, we depend on NGOs, these are the ways we sustain this center and I know with your help and publicity, we will attract NGO’s to come and help us.”
“Our women need help because they are suffering, if you go to villages, you will know that they are really suffering. We are here to alleviate their suffering so that the downtrodden can also smile. Nigeria is rich but many people are suffering.”
“So, journalists should help us to publicize our activities so that NGOs can come and help us because that is what we use to sustain ourselves.”
“We also have IVF machine and some women who can’t get pregnant, especially fistula client, we bring such people here and do what is called assisted reproductive technology, popularly known as baby transplant.”
“It is also a research center, we also embark on prevention during the August meeting, and we teach women how to deliver in the hospital. We are incapacitated, we don’t have Hilux, we don’t have a bus, the only emblem bus we have here is the one outside that can only carry one person. We are here to help women.”