The Ebonyi State government has announced the immediate shutdown and subsequent takeover of the Presbyterian Joint Hospital Uburu in Ohaozara local government area of the state.
The government said the action is sequel to a petition by the host community over the expiration of the church’s 100-year lease.
The community had also alleged misappropriation of funds, high medical charges on indigent patients, use of obsolete equipment in the treatment of patients and non presence of qualified doctors, and urged the state government to take over the management of the hospital.
The State Commissioner for Health, Daniel Umezurike, announced the shutdown and takeover of the hospital on Monday.
He said the state government had to revoke the right of occupancy of the hospital which was established in 1912 in overriding public interest.
Mr Umezuruike said that apart from extortion, there were further allegations of poor clinical services, mismanagement of both funds generated locally and grants from government levelled against the hospital management
According to him; “Uburu people donated the land to church of Scotland Mission in 1912 not to Presbyterian Church of Nigeria. When the Church of Scotland was leaving, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria came in probably because most of the workers are members of the church especially the then Governor of the Old Eastern Region, Late Ezeogo Dr. Akanu Ibiam, but ownership was never transfered to them.
“The hospital was offering qualitative services until in the 90s when the Church of Scotland stopped sending expatriates from Netherlands and the clinical services and management became completely indigenous with attendant deterioration.
“The host community Uburu complained about the ugly trend in the hospital. There was no corporate social responsibility, failure of Presbyterian Joint Health Institute which was established by the hospital but could not secure accreditation for years before it was closed down and students moved to EBSU where they graduated,” he said.
The commissioner noted that as a function of law, the lease of ownership expired in 2011 having lasted 100 years. He said that the community waited patiently until the lease of ownership expired before the agitation to quit started.
Mr Umezuruike said that both the Presbyterian Church or any other body linked with the ownership failed to apply for the renewal of the lease of ownership.
He stated that in other to forestall total breakdown of law and order, the State Executive Council of July 14, in accordance with Land Use Act (Cap L.5 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004, revoked the right of occupancy for overriding public interest.
He noted that the State House of Assembly affirmed the revocation, adding that the ownership of the land and whatever property consequently reverted to Ebonyi State government.
He announced that the hospital would now be designated as Ebonyi State University Community General Hospital that will also serve as the community medicine rural practice area of the state University Teaching Hospital Uburu.
He said that while the hospital will remain shut for two weeks, the state government would among other things take inventory of the hospital, do staff auditing and verification and carry out minor renovation of the hospital to give it a befitting facelift.
Mr Umezurike asked the management of the former Presbyterian Joint Hospital Uburu to immediately step aside until all the task by government are completed.