STEVE OKO writes that stakeholders in the health sector have continued to express worry and concern over the neglect of the Primary Health Care (PHC) system in Nigeria.
The poor attitude of the state actors towards this critical health service came to the front burners at a one- day meeting of the Primary Health Care Under One Roof ( PHCUOR), Civil Society Organizations ( CSOs), the media and other stakeholders in the health sector in partnership with Dr. Ejike Oji Community Development Foundation ( DEOCDF) , held recently at Ovim Centre, Isuikwuato, Abia State.
Participants lamented that while the tertiary and secondary hospitals only cater for about 20% of health care seekers in the country, 80% mostly, rural dwellers depend on the primary health care for medical attention.
Speaking, Dr. Ejike Oji noted that Nigeria has the second highest number of maternal deaths due to gross neglect of health centres which are the first port of call for most pregnant women. PHCUOR is an agency comprising of health experts set up by the federal government to monitor the implementation of funds meant for primary health care across the states.
The former country Director for IPAS also advocated financial autonomy for Primary Health Care Development Agencies (PHCDA) of every state to enable them respond to health emergencies instead of waiting for directives from the governor who for political reasons sometimes delay action. He frowned that only 28 out of the 36 states in Nigeria has PHCDA most of which are not functional due to poor funding.
Ejike further explained that about N49 billion is earmarked annually by the federal government for health care services with about 95% of the funds meant for states which meet the criterial for accessing it. He also said the European Union has released $500,000 to every state in Nigeria for primary health care with additional $1.5 million each to be accessed only by the states which meet up with the needed conditions.
The three important requirement to qualify for the funds include: State Primary Health Care Development Agency; Basic Minimum Packages ( BMP) comprising skilled health workers, community health workers, availability of essential drugs in health centres among others; and the involvement of local government authorities.
He called for constructive engagement on the state actors on the need to have a functional primary health care system in the country to save the populace from various avoidable deaths, advocating for one functional health center in every political ward rather than proliferation of ill equipped ones.
Participants were told that only Jigawa State has 100% functional primary health care delivery as the state government has dutifully paid its counterpart funds to qualify for the various funds by donor agencies and the federal government meant for primary health care.
South East zone has the worst case scenario even as Abia State, which was said to be the best so far in the zone was rated to have only 55%. The forum further noted that Abia State, for instance, loses about N5 billion annually being funds it could have accessed if it pays its counterpart funds for primary health care services.
One of the participants, Comrade Orji Idika of the Rural Alert group, decried lack of competent hands in Abia State primary health care, saying there are only 27 medical doctors in the system.
In his contribution, Dr. Chijioke Kaduru, said a lot of lives would be saved if Nigeria has effective and functional primary health care system where facilities, the essential drugs, and competent hands are made available at the health centres. He lamented lack of referencing from primary to secondary and Tertiary health institutions in Nigeria.
He advised states yet to key into the PHCUOR to do so without delay because of the immense benefits accruing from doing so. According to him, 80% of World Health Organization (WHO) grants as well as 45% of the funds for primary health care can only be accessed through PHCUOR.