|United Methodists in Nigeria recreate medical board
Dr. Cherian Thomas emphasizes the need for strong leadership during a
Medical Board meeting of The United Methodist Church in Nigeria on Feb.
6 in Jalingo.
A UMNS photo by Kathryn Witte.
A UMNS Report
By Kathryn Witte*
March 9, 2009 | JALINGO, Nigeria
The Pero, Southern and Gwaten Conferences of the United Methodist
Church in Nigeria formed a new medical board in January to better serve
the health needs of rural communities.
The goal is to improve the administration of the conferences’ rural health programs.
The board held its inaugural meeting Feb. 6-7 at the church’s
headquarters in Jalingo. More than 20 people representing the United
Methodist health ministries in Nigeria, non-governmental and
governmental health organizations are members of the conferences’ board
The board’s officers are: Dr. Alfred Y. Kobiba, chairman, the former
Commissioner of Health, Taraba State, and currently advisor to the
governor; Augustine A. Gagare, first vice chairman, who is principal of
the School of Nursing, Jalingo; James Barka, second vice chairman,
General Hospital, Gombe, and Lazarus Iliya Filiya, secretary,
administrator of the Rural Health Program in Zing.
Struggles and successes
Reporting on the status of Zing’s rural health program, Filiya said
it is struggling without a full-time doctor and that the patient census
was very low in 2008. Staff members could not be paid on time and many
left for other jobs in the private sector. The program also has not
been able to obtain sufficient drugs.
Of the 31community health dispensaries located in rural areas across
the church’s three annual conferences, he said, only 12 were
functioning. Board members expressed concern and raised questions
regarding their viability and steps needed to get the dispensaries
In contrast, the rural program’s eye section, located on the same
campus in Zing, experienced growth and stability in 2008. Gideon A.
Avar, ophthalmologist and project coordinator, credited partnerships
with Christoffel Blinden Mission in Germany, the Iowa Annual Conference
and Pro-Health International in Africa for the eye clinic’s success.
The Christoffel mission has contributed significant grant money to
the clinic’s infrastructure, while working agreements with Pro-Health
has generated a modest revenue stream.
The Iowa-Nigeria Partnership has brought volunteer eye teams to Zing
to work with Avar. The eye clinic has a good reputation for small
incision cataract surgery that sees patients going home on the same day
of surgery. Avar also credits the implementation of a good
fee-for-service strategy, sound management systems and the creative
addition of ancillary services in the growth of the eye section.
Nebraska, Iowa partnerships
Dr. Cherian Thomas, an executive with the United Methodist Board of
Global Ministries, attended the meeting as a special guest. “The most
important thing the Nigerian conferences can do for its health
ministries is to establish a strong medical board and ensure strong
leadership in the institutions,” he counseled.
Board members concurred with Thomas’ recommendation that a board
must do three things — hire administrators and hold them accountable,
receive program and financial reports, and conduct an annual audit. The
board sets the vision and mission and is responsible to monitor and
evaluate the work, Thomas noted. “If the board will do these three
things you will be successful,” he said.
Others attending the February meeting included Anne Hartman from the
Iowa Annual Conference, who is health coordinator for the Iowa/Nigeria
Partnership; Dottie Halvorsen, chairperson of the Nebraska/Nigeria
Partnership; and the Nebraska Conference communicator.
The Iowa/Nigeria Partnership has existed for more than 20 years.
Hartman announced that a small team would return in June to work at the
hospital in Zing and help Avar conduct an eye clinic camp similar to
one held in 2008. The two-week eye clinic camp served more than 500
people from Zing and outlying communities.
The Nebraska/Nigeria Partnership sponsors an orphanage located near
the Nigerian Conference Office in Jalingo. The orphanage currently
serves more than 40 students.
*Witte is communications director for the Nebraska Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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