Poor location of Bamenda Old Town Health Centre sparks trouble. A new location and building for the Old Town Health Centre has sparked off serious trouble. While the workers at the place complain of the remoteness of the place, the Old Town youths have vowed to demonstrate against the idea of moving there for it is virtually inaccessible.
The story goes that when government thought of building the Health Centre, a piece of land located near the Bamenda Linguistic Centre, in front of the Ancient Combatant Building. When the project was about to start the Chairman of the Health Committee, the District Medical Officer, The Divisional Officer and some local authorities went to the Fon of Mankon to confirm. They returned to start the building in the present controversial site considered to be at a high risk zone. Unconfirmed sources say it was said the piece of land near the Linguistic Centre was for the Delegation of Commerce. But it has turned out that it is the proprietor of Ngi Vichi Primary and Nursery School who is now constructing her school in the plot.
The Health Centre
This is a unit of PMI Nkwen presently located at the entrance to Judicial Police, near the Women’s Empowerment Centre, close to the Bamenda II Divisional Office. It is meant to serve the population of Old Town which is predominantly Hausas and Fulani. It consists of a clinical laboratory, consultation and a pharmacy that renders just the same services as any other hospital. It affords closeness medical attention to even the pregnant women in Old Town, as it is within walking distance from their homes. It has a staff strength of three Laboratory Technicians and one Midwife, and one Pharmacy attendant. Its present location, in spite of the narrowness of the building is very ideal for patients, even the handicapped!
The new location is, to say the least, catastrophic. It defies all principles of locating a health unit. Besides the inaccessibility of the place it is located in a high risk zone, just slightly below Skyline Hotel and above Ayaba Hotel. Even during the dry season reaching the place is an uphill task for a normal human being, then imagine a pregnant woman! Then during the rainy season, the stream flowing down, no bridge, no road! But what if a patient can not walk? The worst of it is that it is in a high risk zone. The City Council had said all should quit high risk zones, like those in Sisia Quarter, not leaving out this area. Above all it is located just near the home for mad persons, Emmaus Centre, established by the Catholic Mission. Imagine a confrontation between patients and mad people!
50 million francs buried
The excitement to have constructed this health unit in this place seems to have arisen from the allocation of 50 million francs for the construction of the place. Observers say the place does not look like it consumed up to 25 million francs. The fact that those concerned never reported to the population, the primary users, about the new location indicates that there was foul play somewhere. Even the administrative authorities are not spared for how could a Divisional Officer approve the construction of a health Centre in such a high risk zone?
A source says when the Divisional Officer was confronted on the situation he said, “I signed without knowing that this was the place”. Just imagine that! The Chief Medical Officer, Dr Tebo Charles Atud, is equally an accomplice. How could he allow such a thing to happen? He had been moving with the members of the Committee all along. He must have had his won share.
Forceful handing over of premises
According to inside sources, some time around November 2009, the Chief Medical Officer informed, the Chief of Centre Mrs Mbaku Esther, that they were going to hand over the keys of the new premises. Prior this day the CMO had asked the staff one day whether they had visited the construction of their new site. When they visited the place they complained about the nature of the place the workers said even as they were digging only water was flowing from the ground. Even the contractor had found lots of difficulties doing the work and when he confronted the D.O. he said he did not know that this was how the place was before signing.
The handing over, however, was done in top secrecy. The press is the mouthpiece and the eye of the people. No press organ was invited for the handing over, not even CRTV! A public utility is meant for the people and so such a handing over ceremony should involve the population that has to be using that facility. This was not the case here. A few handpicked people, surely those who shared in the booty, were there.
Up to this date the health centre is still operating at its old location at the entrance to the Judicial Police, in spite of the fact that the keys have been handed to the staff of the place. The workers have refused to go to the new site. Several meetings are being held and the youth have been mobilised for action.
By Nke Valentine
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