The combined effects of inadequate facilities, lack of the required and skilled personnel as well as funding the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), has increased the infant and maternal mortalities of residents as JOSEPHINE ELLA-EJEH finds out in this report.
Recently, the Director-General of World Health Organisation(WHO), Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus stated the obvious, when he said that the impact of the Universal Health Coverage(UHC) can only be felt when more areas are covered.
This coverage can be achieved by the provision of functional Primary health Centres (PHCs). However, this is easier said than done as investigations have shown the PHCs at the Federal Capital Territory(FCT) are glorified chemist shops, as their challenges range from inadequate primary health facilities, lack of equipment, drugs and manpower among others.
Pregnant women, children bear the brunt
Be that as it may , most often than not, pregnant women and children are at the receiving ending of the ill equipped PHCs. Significantly, this has accounted for the increase in maternal and child mortalities in the FCT in recent times. Often, pregnant women travel long distances, while in labour, in order to access health care from bigger hospitals within satellite towns. Usually, complications arise and fatalities occur, where either the infant babies or mothers die in the process. The difficulty in accessing PHCs has resulted to an over reliance on traditional birth attendants with all the attendant risks. The Emir of Jiwa, Alhaji Idris Musa lamented the inadequacy of PHCs. He called on the FCT Administration to provide more PHCs as he blamed the overstretched ones on increasing population of the FCT. According to him, Area Councils can not adequately meet demand of healthcare services. The emir pointed out that ‘’the population of FCT today, because of the security challenges we are having in this county, about 3,000 people enter Abuja everyday but 1,000 people go out. The remaining ones remain inside, so if you go to satellite towns, 10 people live in a room. When you look at the percentage of the size of the primary healthcare and the size of the population that are there, it’s inadequate.’’
The monarch further said that his Jiwa subjects ‘’have recorded several deaths among our women who in the course of delivery, are referred to the general hospital in Gwarimpa.’’ The emir revealed that in most cases, vehicles conveying patients are held up by gridlock ‘’and before you know it, the patient gives up.’’
Apart from inadequate facilities, shortage of the right caliber of staff is also a major challenge.
FCTA to the rescue
Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhmmad Musa Bello promised that his administration would recruit 200 midwives in order to boost the health system in the territory. The minister who made the pledge at Kuchingoro, when the WHO Director General, Mr Ghebreyesus visited the satellite town, did not disclose when the midwives would be employed. The FCT minister, who was represented by the Secretary, FCT Education Secretariat, Sen. Isa Maina at the occasion, also promised to upgrade and make the existing 237 PHCs that are located in the 62 wards of the FCT functional. According to reports, 18 new PHCs were constructed in 2017, to boost healthcare delivery in the FCTA. Nine of the PHCs were constructed under the President Goodluck Jonathan SureP programme and the rest nine were constructed by Satellite Town Department of FCTA.
Similarly, at a separate occasion, the Acting Executive Secretary of the FCT Primary Health Care Development Board, Dr. Mathew Ashikeni, also said that the midwives recruitment plan has been captured in 2018 budget. r Ashikeni admitted that the primary health sector is in dire straits but the administration is doing its best to ameliorate the problem. He said that “the recent mapping we carried out in the PHC facilities confirmed to us that many of them need to be attended to, looking at the infrastructure or the service delivery in terms of the human resource component.’’ According to Ashikeni , these gaps need to be addressed and that is why the minister approved the construction of 12 PHC facilities in the six area councils. He noted that ‘’the FCT population is estimated to be five million, there is need to have health facilities that will meet up the health needs of the growing population.”
Human resources is key
Apart from structures and adequate facilities, the acting Secretary of FCTA Primary Health Development Board said that the administration has engaged the services of 50 Volunteer midwives under Save One Million Lives programme. In addition, the Union of National African Paediatric Societies and Associations and Paediatric Association of Nigeria , have trained doctors and nurses on neo-natal resuscitation and anaesthetic last January. The President of PAN, Ngozi Ibeziako said that the programme was organised for nurses and doctors in some FCT hospitals.
According to her, the training aims at sharpening the skills of healthcare providers to enable them to save new-born with asphyxia, the inability of babies to cry immediately after birth due to lack of oxygen before, during or after delivery. Ibeziako, who decried the rate of neonatal mortality in the country as a result of birth asphyxia, said that the training would reduce the burden, as healthcare providers would be well-equipped with requisite skills to tackle the challenge. She said that the union had trained community extension workers at the primary healthcare level in Gwagwalada as part of the conference.
More health workers still needed
In spite of FCTA’s efforts and complements by Non Governmental Organisations(NGOs), the primary health services in satellite towns still need to be upgraded. Dr Ashikeni disclosed that nothing less than 4,000 additional health workers are still needed to deliver effective and efficient health services across the territory. He said last assessment showed that FCT needs more than 60 per cent of what it currently has in terms of health workforce to fill in the gap. According to Ashikeni, his board had embarked on different programmes to provide health care services to the rural dwellers, in spite of inadequate personnel, in order to treat common diseases.
Right now, the combined effects of inadequate facilities, lack of the required and skilled personnel as well as funding have put PHCs in the FCT in the Intensive Care Unit