Author: Chris Sanctus Chukwudi Okereke, November 2 2016 -  What is on everybody’s mind in Nigeria is the word “change”, which is a mantra associated with the current administration of the President Muhammadu Buhari. A lot of people are even developing some resentment towards the word on the grounds that the government is not practising what it preaches. There is a misunderstanding of the change mantra of the Federal Government “Be the Change you desire”. Many people think that the government has shortchanged them by handing over the change they promised back to the people. But that may not be entirely true. That concept is simply saying that in the change process, everybody has a role to play. While not advocating for the Federal government, I had an experience to share about my understanding of that change mantra.

 Precisely on the 19 Sept. 2016, I went to our Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu to donate blood for an ailing relation. That relation eventually died of leukaemia. But that is not the story. The story is that almost all the parts of that edifice that I entered on my way to the bleeding room were cool and conducive with the help of air conditioners. But the Bleeding Room was different. The mini hall was hot, yet dual 2 horsepower units were staring at me helplessly. Out of 10 florescent lamps in the hall, only two had tubes on them. I was not a staff nor had any relationship with the hospital. I was just a voluntary blood donor. But I could not stand what I saw. I asked the lady whom I perceived as the OIC in the room why the room was hot. She explained that it had been like that for the past two years since the air conditioners were installed. A couple of technicians had been deployed to fix them to no avail. I told her I would like to speak to her boss. She was surprised and wondered who I was. Initially, she was hesitant but later gave in due to her colleagues’ pressure who have been earnestly looking for a messiah. She gave me his number. I called and introduced myself as a blood donor who is on a campaign to mobilise people for voluntary blood donation. With his very friendly tenor voice responded from the other end. Surprisingly he opted to come and see me in the hall. The test was going on then to determine my fitness for the blood donation when a tall smart looking well-dressed man in his late forties or early fifties appeared. With the smile on his face I could guess he was the one. I smiled back and took his handshake. He introduced himself as Prof Ocheni, the HoD of the Department. I nicely told him about my observation about the air conditioners in the bleeding room.

 He explained his frustration over it and how they had made efforts to fix them since he resumed duty as the HoD without success. From his explanation, all efforts to fix those air conditioners by his previous Head of Department had failed. He said that the hospital technicians had checked it several times and promised to remind them again. I suggested bringing another technician to try it. Surprisingly he accepted. People in our civil service would refuse such offer normally with the suspicion that you have some interest. I immediately placed a call to two technicians and arranged for them to meet him so that he can make his choice. The Prof. promised to try his best to get the air conditioners working again. An action man he seems, he quickly disappeared to resume his duties. All the staff were happy and excited that the messiah indeed had come. The meeting was so short that I wondered if he was going to keep to his words. A few days later, the Prof. texted me that one of the air conditioners was working, promising to try his best to fix the second one soon.

By the time I was done with the blood donation, the corner where the bed was located was a gory sight. I called the same OIC whom I later knew as Priscilla and drew her attention to the pull of blood stains all over the floor and on the desks. Only God knows how long those stains were there. Priscila said that the cleaner would not listen to her when she complains. I requested to speak to the cleaner. She suggested that it would be better to speak to her boss directly. She led me to a nice decent looking lady, Nnennia who sat in a very chilling office close-by. I nicely told her my observation and pleaded that we go to the site. She nicely obliged and gently followed me. By the time we got to the corner, an entourage of staff was following her, including the cleaner.

Nnannia was very embarrassed and was shot of words. She turned and asked the Cleaner why she has not been cleaning the place. The shivering cleaner who was wondering who I was replied that she did not have the hand gloves to clean that part of the clinic. I turned and looked at Nnennia who seemed to understand why she could not access gloves. I asked if she could help get some for her now. Nnennia turned and instructed that a pack of gloves be given to the Cleaner. She started thanking me for the intervention promising to ensure that the place and all the equipment will be immediately cleaned up. Before I rounded up the process, Nnennia had brought a bucket of water and mobs, followed by all the staff and started the clean-up immediately. It was surprising how such small intervention could produce a quick result.

The blood bank at UNTH is a singular example. Every microsystem or even the mesosystem of the gigantic hospital may have their own challenges waiting for a push like the one I provided.

My happiness is that the intervention was successful. At least at press time, one of the Air conditioners is working and the second one will hopefully be repaired soon, according to the HoD. The blood donation site is thoroughly cleaned and hopefully will remain so for some time. The truth is that if people truly want to make the system work, they can. It may not require money. But to make the system work requires continuous monitoring. Studies have revealed that cheating is an integral aspect of man. Man has the tendency to cheat as long as he/she is not monitored. That is why the laws are there. And to keep the law, enforcement is necessary. Nigeria must begin to take monitoring very seriously by making budgetary allocations for it. We are good at spending so much money building structures and systems but find it difficult to make accommodations monitor and maintain that system. That was a bit of what I saw at UNTH. It is all over the country. Some other times, these allocations are made, but the money will never go into what it was budgeted. That is corruption.

At least I am happy that my visit to UNTH was rewarding, not just for me, but for all the staff and patients that will benefit therein. But it is not in all cases that such a success is recorded. It depends on the leadership.

Prof. Ocheni and Nnennia, for me, represent an exemplary leadership who listen to clients. Experience Based Co-Design (EBCD) is all about engaging and utilising experiences of patients to achieve quality improvement in the health sector. And the Professor Ocheni, the HoD and Nnennia have provided the platform for such a strategy. Institutionalising it will go a long way in bringing the required change in our hospital for the good of all.

Therefore being the change we desire does not necessarily mean that the government is relegating its responsibility, but for me, it is a clarion call for everybody to try in whichever capacity one finds himself, to contribute in making positive change happen around him or her.