“My overarching objective as the head of department is to create a standard and hygienic environment”- Bukola Akerele.
The Board of Management on July 1st 2020 approved the creation of the Environmental Health Department and also the appointment of Mrs. Bukola Akerele, a senior environmental health officer as the first head of department.
The newly created department of Environmental Health was until July 1st 2020 a unit under the department of Works.
Mrs. Bukola Akerele started her early education in Ondo State, Nigeria. She attended secondary school at the Federal University of Technology staff secondary school Akure, Ondo state. She proceeded to the University of Ilorin in 2000 where she attained her B.Sc. (hons) and after her NYSC in Edo State in 2005, she obtained a masters of Public Health with specialization in (Environmental Health Science) in 2010.
She joined the services of the University College Hospital, Ibadan in 2010 and in 2011, she got certified and licensed as an Environmental Health Professional with the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria.
Over the years, she has worked on some major projects which have shaped the Hospital’s hygiene system. Some of these include: Renovation of the sewage treatment plant in 2015 and acquisition of new automated incinerator and refabricating of old Manual incinerator in 2017and 2020 respectively.
Based on her outstanding service to the growth and development of the Hospital, she was presented several Awards of Recognition in 2013 and 2017.
With her impressive record, Bukola is leaving no stone unturned to achieve her dream of bringing changes to the Hospital’s sanitariness.
In this interview, she speaks about her new role, and how COVID-19 is shaping things.
CAN YOU TELL THE UCH COMMUNITY A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT?
Environmental Health Department was formerly known as health department and it was established in March 1958. It was one of the departments that had been established from the inception of the hospital. It was under the preventive and social medicine department before it became autonomous in October 1958.
In 2006/07 when some reform activities were done in Nigeria. Environmental Health Department was part of the reformed departments and environment health-related work like cleaning of the hospital and waste management were outsourced to private contractors.
In March 2011, the former CMD, Professor Temitope Alonge restored Environmental health as a new unit under Total Facility Management Department which was later changed to Works department. In 2013, I became the head of the unit up until July 1st 2020 when the Board of Management approved the reinstatement of the department and I was pronounced the head of the department.
The leadership of this department goes as far back as 1958, from 1958-1978 Mr. A. Adesola; Mr. A.A. Babatunde 1978-1986; Mr. J.O Oladosun 1987-2007. In 2011 when the Environmental health unit was restored under the Total Facility Management Department, Mr. A.A. Adewumi and I were the two sanitarians that started the unit. Mr A.A Adewumi was the head of the Unit.
Initially, we were supervising the outsourced contractors but now the department has Health Assistants sanitary recruited to carry out the cleaning of the hospital. Gradually, the outsourced staff are being phased-out while we take over our duties and responsibilities.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT STAFF STRENGHT?
We are Ninety Six, close to hundred.
AS THE FIRST HEAD OF THIS DEPARTMENT, WHAT IS YOUR AGENDA FOR THE DEPARTMENT AS YOU RESUME?
Even as a unit, our objective had been to maintain a standard hygienic environment for quality healthcare delivery in line with the vision of the Hospital which is to be the flagship of healthcare institution in West-Africa sub-region. As the head of department, my major objective is to ensure that the hospital is clean and safe for both patients and staff. We hold our responsibility in high esteem and our mission in Environmental Health Department is to give prompt response to any nuisance detected or reported in order to ensure that everywhere is safe for all. The first day the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo addressed staff, he mentioned 6P’s and one of them stands for Personnel welfare. My aim therefore is that my team will work closely with the Health assistants in all departments and ensure that they carry out their duties for cleaner offices, clinics and wards that is conducive for staff to perform their duties optimally. Disinfection and pest control is another major area I intend to put more effort. My overarching objective as the head of department is to create a standard and hygienic environment for all to work, with this the impact of the Environmental Health Department will be felt in the Hospital at large.
HOW IS THE ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT WORKING HAND IN HAND WITH THE SPECIAL DUTIES UNIT?
Special Duties Unit (SDU) has eight subcommittees and the environmental health department is a member of the environmental sanitation and aesthetics sub-committee. We work in synergy to ensure that the hospital is clean and beautiful to behold. Environmental Health Department duty is to ensure adequate waste disposal, sewage treatment, pest control and flood control by adequate evacuation of blocked drainages and we also monitor contract staffs that are still around. Hence, the special duties unit call our attention to any issue related to the activities that needs urgent attention such as indiscriminate pasting of posters around the hospital premises.
HOW IS COVID-19 SHAPING YOUR JOB FUNCTIONS?
In March this year when the first case was recorded in UCH, the department swung into action by ensuring regular disinfection of the premises. With the help of the management, the department was able to acquire motorized sprayers and knapsacks to disinfect railings, clinics and wards. In April, we commenced the daily disinfection of the hospital, wards and offices. Also, Ooni of Ife donated a Mobile Modular Fumigator that facilitated the routine disinfection of the hospital premises and residential quarters. The department is also part of the UCH COVID-19 task force team that has been particularly set up for the constant sensitization and monitoring of staff and the UCH community at large. The department is also involved in the management of COVID-19 deaths and disinfection of the deceased before they are taken for burial in the body bag. These are some of the ways we have been contributing to help curb the spread of the virus.
The department plays a sensitive role in various committees of the hospital, one of our duties is food hygiene and safety in the hospital. There are about twenty food outlet services within the hospital apart from our Dietetics department, this department ensures that food is prepared and served under hygienic conditions and a report of activities are communicated to the infectious control committee. The department also works with the security committee on some issues like control of hawkers and beggers, people bringing refuse from their homes into hospital bins, control of scavengers within the hospital premises, just to mention a few. The department works with the ambulance committee by ensuring the disinfection of the ambulances after it has been used to transport patients.
YOU ARE THE FIRST FEMALE TO HEAD THIS DEPARTMENT, HOW WILL YOU RECONCILE THIS ROLE WITH BEING A MOTHER AND A WIFE?
When you have passion for the job you do, nothing can be an obstacle. Even when I was the only staff of this unit, before the management recruited more environmental health officers, I always had passion for my job and achieved brilliant results. To the glory of God, there’s nowhere you’ll go in the hospital that you won’t feel the impact of environment health department. In addition, I have acquired some personal development skills that have greatly enhanced my knowledge on how to manage people. Above all these, with God on my side, I have been able to do my job right coupled with the responsibility of a wife and mother.
ANY MESSAGE FOR THE MANAGEMENT?
The reinstatement of this department is something we have been hoping for and we didn’t expect it could be quickly granted, we are extremely happy and grateful. The management has always been responding to our requests and we need more of their support at all times. Also, our office is congested and we seek for expansion. I know it’s a gradual process and the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Jesse Otegbayo has promised to do something and that is my plea.