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Nigerians decry shortage of workers, poor services at PHCs

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NIGERIANS have expressed dismay over the shortage of workers at most primary health centres (PHCs) in the country.

During an anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience, produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development (PRIMORG) on Wednesday in Abuja, the citizens said they were shocked by poor services caused largely by the inadequate workforce at the PHCs. 

A series of investigative reports on PHCs, supported by the International Budget Partnership (IBP) and published by the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), was the focus of discussion at the programme.

The reports focused on two interventions of the Federal Government – the Midwives Service Scheme and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) – which the government launched in 2009 and 2018, respectively, to bolster services at PHCs and make their services accessible and free for Nigerians.

The reports exposed sleazes, inefficiencies, inadequacies and other shortcomings of the interventions. They also highlighted the strengths of the initiatives, while the citizens and other stakeholders interviewed proffered solutions to the challenges. 

Speaking on the radio programme, a Senior Investigative Reporter with The ICIR, Marcus Fatunmole, said most health facilities in rural areas were not functional and lacked nurses and midwives. 

Fatunmole, who spoke on three of the newspaper’s reports in Ogun, Anambra and Nasarawa, said most of the PHCs suffered from inadequate staff, poor welfare packages, dilapidated structures, and a general loss of public confidence.

Fatunmole said during the programme, “In Nasarawa State, in all the 17 PHCs visited, there were no nurses. There were only eight midwives. Out of them, maybe four were contracted, meaning that the government was not paying them. So they’re collecting N5,000, or N10,000 monthly.

“In Anambra, 20 women lost their lives during childbirth between January and June this year. This was mainly because when patients come to the facilities they don’t meet the workers. The health workers don’t stay in those communities. They prefer living in the cities.

“When you are coming to PHCs in Anambra State, you will have to inform the gate man, who will be calling the nurse on duty to come and attend to a patient.

“Records showed that at a PHC, there were only nine births within seven months. How could that happen in the 21st century in a state?” he questioned.

According to Fatunmole, poor service delivery at PHCs across the country is making rural dwellers resort to traditional means and increasing the tendency for health workers to extort money from helpless citizens who are at their mercy.

He, however, hailed the impact of Basic Health Care funding on some PHCs while calling on state governments to expand the programme and recruit health workers permanently other than relying on contract workers or volunteers from communities. 

Meanwhile, the Programme Officer at International Budget Partnership, Olaniyi Olaleye, while calling on states to increase the remuneration of nurses, midwives, and other workers at the PHCs, blamed the PHCs’ woes on the failure of past and present governments to prioritize healthcare.

He said the Nigerian budget over the last six years had yet to meet the Abuja declaration, in which African countries committed to allocating at least 15 per cent of their budget to health care.

His words: “Government has not been performing its responsibility. Some states have not contributed their fund to that purse, and primary health centres are being neglected. Therefore, people go to secondary or tertiary institutions, putting pressure on them.

“Medical personnel are leaving the country because the government is not doing what it is supposed to do regarding remuneration.

“Most people have given up on our PHCs because there has been a trend of government failure to address the needs of the people. So what the government needs to do is to build that trust back,” Olaleye advised.

Some Nigerians who called into the programme narrated their ugly ordeals at different PHCs across the country.

One of them was the Chairman of Pegi Community Development Association (PECDA), in Kuje, Abuja, Taiwo Aderibigbe.

He said that only two nurses attended to people at the community’s health facility.

“In Pegi resettlement, the situation is not different. There are two nurses, no midwife, and no volunteer. Presently, I’m at a facility, and just one worker is attending to over 30 mothers,” he lamented.

The ICIR reported in October how President Muhammadu Buhari ordered a probe of the management of the BHCPF after its reports exposed corruption and other sharp practices in the handling of the initiative in states across the country. 

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

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