The Akwa Ibom State Government has announced that it is partnering with private investors and German authorities to set up a medical facility it says would become a “centre of excellence”.
The medical university is separate from the existing massive specialist hospital initiated and constructed by the Godswill Akpabio administration.
Completed and commissioned with fanfare a few days before Mr Akpabio’s exit from office on May 2015, the N41 billion specialist hospital has been enmeshed in several crisis leading to it being shut down last year.
However, the facility is now back and running, the state commissioner of health, Dominic Ukpong, told PREMIUM TIMES.
On Friday, the foundation stone of the ultra-modern Thompson & Grace Medical University was laid in Afaha Obong located in the outskirts of Uyo, the state capital.
A private investor and Managing Director/CEO of Thompson & Grace Investment Limited, Isaac Amos, said he was collaborating with the state government and some of the world’s international medical and research institutions to establish the institution.
It is not yet clear what other role the state government is playing in the partnership, beyond providing the land where the facility would be located. Mr Ukpong refused to disclose details of the state’s role in the partnership when PREMIUM TIMES called him for further enquiries.
But, the state governor, who confirmed the partnership, said at the foundation stone laying ceremony that his administration is confident its partnership with the private investors and the German authorities to execute the institution would impact Akwa Ibom in particular and Nigeria at large.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Moses Ekpo, said at a time Nigeria was in dire need of qualified medical personal for its hospitals, the new university would be of immense benefit, not only to Akwa Ibom, but Nigeria as a whole.
The governor expressed delight with the strategic objective set out by the university, saying there was every reason to believe it would become a centre of excellence.
He said the facility would further fast-track the process of technology transfer in the vital area of quality healthcare service delivery in the country.
Mr Emmanuel said the project of this magnitude comes with a lot of value addition and multiplier effect, especially in the area of job creation.
“As from projected statistics, I am told when fully operational, this medical facility has the capacity to accommodate up to 35,000 workers (direct and indirect) in what appears one of the biggest foreign direct investment drives in this part of the world,” the governor said.
He, however, assured the management team of the T&G Medical University and its promoters that the state government fully identified with the project and would continue to provide whatever support was required to create the environment for its success.
In his welcome statement, Managing Director/CEO of Thompson & Grace Investment Limited, Isaac Amos, said the initiative was driven by ”three critical and closely-related needs in healthcare and medical education in Nigeria”.
Mr Amos, who is also the principal promoter of the TGMU, listed the needs to include: “need for qualified healthcare professionals in Nigeria; the need for world-class medical university capable of innovative research and development (R&D) in Nigeria and Africa, and the need for affordable and accessible healthcare services in Nigeria.”
He said these needs inspired his organisation to seek collaboration with some international medical and research institutions across the world to establish the institution.
The collaborating institutions, he said, include, USTAWI Research Institute, USA; HKS Inc., USA; Center for Health Systems & Design, Texas A&M University USA, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota, USA, and University Medical Center of Hamburg Eppendorf (UKE), Germany.
Others include, UKE Consult Und Management GmbH, Germany, Hellmann Worldwide Healthcare Logistics GmbH, Germany, among others.
The proprietor said he had researched, planned, designed and created a healthcare model of a “medical city” where people can “Work, Live, Learn, Heal and Play”.
The German Ambassador to Nigeria, Bernhard Schlagheck, performed the foundation laying ceremony.
He led another German medical expert, and Executive Dean of the Medical Faculty of University Medical Center Eppendorf (UKE), Germany, Uwe Koch-Gromus, to the event.
The foundation stones laid were those of the TGMC Senate and General Administration Buildings, as well as the Community Primary Healthcare Hospital of the university.
The ambassador was represented by Head of Corporation at the German Embassy, Christopher Wenzel.
He expressed the concern of the people and government of Germany over the poor health service delivery system in Nigeria, assuring his government was willing to support the project to help improve the health standard of the people.
The envoy called on governments and institutions in Nigeria and abroad to support the initiative to help create the environment for quality medical services in the country.
Meanwhile, Mr Koch-Gromus said TGMC would lead the medical research and leverage on the experience of the University of Hamburg (UKE) to develop quality curriculum for medical students in Nigeria and Africa.
“TGMC is a good strategic partner that my institution needs in the area of medical research which is lacking in most institutions in Africa,” he said.
On July 31, 2017, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Thompson & Grace Investment Limited, Lagos, and the University Medical Centre Eppendorf (UKE), Germany, at the German Embassy in Abuja.
Under the MoU, operations are expected to commence in the next two years.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been edited to reflect the fact the specialist hospital in Uyo is now functional after it was initially shut last year).