By Dr. Dons Eze
But for the current coronavirus and the prompt response by the Enugu State Governor, Rt. Hon. Lawrence Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to take the bull by the horns, the former Enugu Colliery Hospital at New Market, along Milken Hill road, would have continued to remain a dead place, abandoned and deserted.
But today, everything has changed, the former Enugu Colliery Hospital is fast wearing a new look, and is rapidly being transformed.
A casual look by any passerby will see the tremendous work going on almost day and night, at the hospital. Most of the old structures have been renovated, while new buildings are springing up here and there.
Established during the colonial era by the management of the Nigerian Coal Corporation, the Colliery Hospital was aimed to serve African workers of the coal industry, while the European residents of Enugu attended the Parklane Hospital, in a bifurcated world between the colonized natives, and their foreign exploiters.
When the coal industry became moribund, or was abandoned after the Nigerian civil war, Enugu Colliery Hospital was adversely affected. It suffered a serious setback. For several years, there was virtually no life in the hospital since the owners, the Nigerian Coal Corporation, was no longer able to sustain it, and the federal government, had turned its back on it.
As a result, things became extremely difficult for both the medical personnel and other workers of the hospital, and they began to leave in droves. Patients no longer attended the hospital, or it became the last option for residents of the Coal City seeking medical attention.
When in 2013, the Bureau for Public Enterprises slated Enugu Colliery Hospital, along with the Coal Corporation's Headquarters building along Okpara Avenue, Enugu, among the corporation's properties to be sold, Enugu State Government rose to the occasion, and paid N238 million and N200 million respectively, for the two properties.
But there it ended. The then state government did not do anything further. In consequence, the hospital still remained dormant. Virtually all the buildings were dilapidated, the environment filthy, and overgrown with grasses.
Then came coronavirus, and Enugu State Government, anxious to ensure that they were not caught by surprise in case there was serious outbreak of the pandemic in the state, designated the former Colliery Hospital, as one of the isolation centres for COVID-19 in the state.
The government followed this up by immediately releasing N330 million for the purpose of carrying out extensive reconstruction works and expansion of the hospital.
The result is what we now see as tremendous work going on at the former Colliery Hospital. The state government should be commended for this excellent work of giving life to the once abandoned and neglected former Colliery Hospital.
Coronavirus will not last forever. Sooner or later, it must go. When it goes, the Colliery Hospital will not remain an isolation centre. It will be turned into some other health needs, for the betterment of the people of Enugu State.
The Park Lane Teaching Hospital is currently overburdened and overtasked. There are no more spaces there. That's when the renovated former Colliery Hospital will come into play.
We really thank Governor Ugwuanyi for reactivating this hospital, which is one of the remaining relics of the once vibrant Enugu Coal industry.