At New Kutunku, life is cheap, especially the lives of pregnant women, children, and senior citizens. Yet, a cottage hospital stands on Madam Blessing Street, off Jeremiah Hussein Road, abandoned, and decaying for the past 12 years.
The nearly completed hospital is meant to meet the people’s immediate health needs, but that will not happen anytime soon.
Mukhtar Sabiu was 11 when the construction of the hospital began. He has, however, witnessed not only the fits and starts the project has been through; the 23-year-old has also seen pregnant women dying for lack of access to primary health care.
“It was meant to serve our medical needs. People were excited when they realised it was a hospital,” Sabiu recalls.
The hospital is structured into five separately constructed buildings; double two-story buildings, a one-storey building, and two bungalows.
New Kutunku, in the Gwagwalada Local Government Area, is home to over 11,000 people who are mainly artisans and petty traders.
The construction of the building started in 2011-four years before the end of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. But it has been abandoned under the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The proposed cottage hospital project is spearheaded by the Health and Human Services Secretariat (works unit) of the Federal Capital Development Territory.
Sequel to the failure of the Buhari regime to complete the project, the residents have been facing difficulties accessing healthcare. The community has recorded several deadly consequences, including the inability of pregnant women and sick children to access timely medical care. These are linked to the lack of functioning health facilities, challenges in accessing available healthcare, and the inability to afford alternatives.
Sabiu says he takes residents who need emergency care to either the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, or the Rose Haske Maternity and Clinic.
The UATH is 8.4 kilometres away from New Kutunku, according to Google map, while the latter is 2.7 kilometres away from the community.
In recent times, he has taken eight residents of the community to both hospitals through the bumpy road at midnight, sometimes resulting in deadly consequences.
“People come to knock on our gate at midnight and if my dad is not around, I have to take them to the hospital. There was a time my mum was sick and my dad was not around. I had to go look for someone outside to take her to the hospital since I didn’t know how to drive then. I had to learn how to drive afterwards.
“A month ago, I took a pregnant woman to the hospital at 4 am and returned home but by dawn, I heard she had already passed away. She gave birth to the baby but the baby passed away too.
“The problem is that the specialist hospital (UATH) is overwhelmed. It takes a long time for them to attend to you even in emergencies, and it takes a lot of processes to make payment before one can be attended to. If you are sick and you need emergency treatment, it is very hard to attend to you immediately.
“For us here, after struggling through this bad road, you get to the hospital, and spend up to two hours before you can be attended to, but assuming we have our health facility, it would have been easier.
“The distance to the hospital discourages pregnant women from going for ante-natal. They hardly go for ante-natal. They hardly bring out their children for immunisation. You have to convince them that they will be given milk if they come out for immunisation.
“Honestly, I feel very bad that we don’t have a place we can go immediately for treatment. It also affects us economically,” Sabiu narrated.
Earlier in April, Mrs Patience Edeh had to take her 11-month-old to the hospital in the wee hours when she developed a fever.
“I trekked from the house for several minutes because there was no motorcycle before a good samaritan took me in his car to St Mary Catholic Hospital around 3 am. Even when I got there, all the health workers were busy. We only ran the necessary test before I proceeded to another hospital for her treatment in the morning.
“When it comes to healthcare, the health facility most people go to is the teaching hospital, even though it is not close. There are other private hospitals but not everyone can afford them. Meanwhile, these hospitals are usually overwhelmed, there may not be bed space, and before you are attended to, you just have to keep praying that you don’t lose your loved ones,” Edeh lamented.