By Ebuka Onyeji
About 4,000 Primary Health Centres (PHCs) have been renovated and in the process of revitalization across the country, an official has said.
The 4,000 PHCs are spread across the country and are renovated and being revitalized by the federal government, state government and development partners.
Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) stated this on Wednesday in Abuja during the agency’s end of the year productivity award and send forth ceremony.
The event, in its second edition, aims at celebrating staff of the agency and their efforts towards achieving its goals during the year.
Mr Shuaib made the comment in response to a question by journalists, immediately after his opening remark.
He was asked to give account of the 10,000 PHCs the government promised to revitalize almost two years ago.
In January 2017, the president, Muhammadu Buhari, flagged-off a scheme to revitalise about 10,000 PHCs across Nigeria.
Under the first phase, the federal government, who is collaborating with the lower levels of government and development partners in the scheme, said it will work on a PHC in each of the country’s 109 senatorial districts in Nigeria. This means, three in each state and one in the Federal Capital Territory.
But more than a year after the plan was kicked off, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation found that very little work had been done.
Prior to the time, a previous investigation by this medium, about 10 months after the plan was flagged-off, mirrored the terrible state of Primary Health Centres across the nation.
“… So far, some 4000 PHCs have been renovated and in the process of full revitalization,” Mr Shuaib responded to the question during the brief chat with journalists outside the venue of the event.
He said revitalization does not only mean the infrastructure. “It is making sure that right equipment, medicine, water, electricity, adequate health personnel and housing for them (health workers) to 24 hours services is provided.”
The official alluded that the government is not half way in achieving its plan on PHCs.
“… but, 4,000 means we have made remarkable progress. We never said it (revitalization) will happen under one or two years. It’s a process that is going to be sustainable and in the course of our generation and future generation, we will be able to institute PHC in a way that posterity will be proud of what this administration has done,” he noted.
The NPHCDA boss also reiterated government’s plan to commence a roll out of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, a signature mandate for health funding in the National Health Act 2014.
“What will dominate 2019 is the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund. With it, some N51b has already been released and much more will be released in 2019 in a way that people do not have to pay out of pocket for basic health care.
“The NPHCDA is working with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of health in that regard. We will coordinate the disbursement. The utilization of this fund is most unprecedented because of the fact that it’s supposed to go all the way to the facilities directly from the Central Bank so there is no lateral withdrawal of the funds.
“From the national level to the NPHCDA and the State Primary Health Care Board then to the PHCs, where they will be utilized. This reduces bureaucracy and opportunity for misappropriation of funds and that is why we strongly consider this as a structure that will produce the very long desired results for PHCs in Nigeria.”
Primary health care system in Nigeria is dogged by multiple challenges despite billions of naira spent over the decades on health facilities by government at different levels.
Less than 20 per cent of the 30,000 public PHCs in the country is fully functional, a survey by a nongovernmental body, CISLAC, said.
Going by the blueprint of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), a PHC should have one or more doctors, a pharmacist, a staff nurse and other paramedical support staff to provide outreach services.
It should also have a well-equipped open ward, labour room, children and female wards, doctor’s office and staff quarters, an ambulance for referrals and drugs and equipment for immunisation, preventive and basic curative care.
The centre is also to provide monitoring and evaluation, as well as maternal and child health services.
While the government shuffles plans, inability of PHCs to meet up with its design continues to force women in Nigeria to patronise untrained traditional birth attendants, despite the grave risks involved.
According to a survey conducted by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), in Nigeria, one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth.