The federal government inaugurated the Primary Health Care plan (PHC) in the National Health Policy of 1988 to improve equity in access and utilisation of basic health services.
Because of its concept as a grassroot model for providing healthcare services to communities, the late former minister of health, Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, developed model PHCs in 52 local governments areas between 1986 and 1992.
However, some users have observed that PHC centres are faced with many challenges that have somewhat defeated the purpose of the programme.
Mrs Joy Adams, who resides in Dei-Dei, a suburb of Abuja, said that she noticed various challenges in accessing healthcare on the platform of PHC plan on several occasions.
The problems, according to Joy and other persons, range from near-absence of drug when needed to inadequate health workers and poor condition of the health centre due to lack of maintenance which characterises the programme.
Similarly, Mrs Kemi Ariyo, a resident of Kwali in Abuja, said that accessing medical care at the PHCs had become a mirage in Kwali.
According to her, there are no facilities to take care of patients while the health workers are also not responsive enough as, according to her, they come to the centre at will.
Ariyo noted that the development might be as a result of what might have been responsible for the poor state of some heath facilities at the health centre located in area.
Concerned citizens similarly observed that health workers in most of the centres struggle every day to attend to patients even when the facilities are in short supply.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, admits that the state of PHC centres in the country is not appropriate.
She observes further that the country’s primary healthcare services are not working optimally as expected.
She, nonetheless, promised that NPHCDA is working to proffer solutions to the poor condition of PHCs across the country in order to give the needed service to the people in the rural areas.
In an apparent response to this challenge, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated a revitalisation programme to revive PHC centres.
Inaugurating a model PHC clinic in Kurchigoro, Abuja, the president said that the federal government would revitalise 10,000 PHC facilities across the country in phases.
He emphasised that the ultimate objective in revitalising the PHC centres was to ensure that quality basic health care services were delivered to Nigerians irrespective of their locations.
Buhari also said that the facilities would provide services at minimal or no cost and focus on people living in the rural areas as well the vulnerable populations.
Giving more assurance, the immediate past minister of health, Isaac Adewale, says revamping the comatose PHC centres across the country would help to strengthen and develop the nation’s healthcare system.
Similarly, Dr David Osifo, the commissioner for health in Edo state, says the state government has trained no fewer than 200 nurses for the 20 pilot PHC centres across the state and urged other states to replicate same.
NMA to the rescue
Beside this, to ensure unhindered access to healthcare, the Nigeria Medical Association promises its collaboration with the federal government to boost the services of PHC centres in the country.
Dr Francis Faduyile, president of the association, noted that members of the association were doing a lot to ensure adequate support for healthcare services at the grassroots and also to improve the healthcare standard in the country.
He said the association has been working with the government at the grassroots to ensure that PHC centres are well developed.
Dr Faduyile said the association has been canvassing for adequate funding of healthcare centres and it has gone further to canvass for better equipment for such health facilities.
“We have been calling on state governments saddled with the employment of doctors to deploy doctors to the PHCs across the country,’’ Faduyile says.
WHO commends efforts so far
Observing the efforts of the federal government at revitalising the PHC centres across the country, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commends the Buhari-led administration.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the global body made the commendation when he visited one of the revitalised PHC centres at Kuchigoro, FCT-Abuja.
Ghebreyesus explained that the present government’s effort to revamp PHCs was in line with WHO’s programme to ensure every citizen access healthcare.
“I am glad to be in Nigeria and visited this PHC centre. wWhat Nigeria is doing now is in line with global practice.
“I am also happy that the project is focusing on mobilisation which is commendable; a project of this nature cannot succeed without involving the people and having the community as the owner is the right thing to do,’’ he said.
The director-general urged the government to speed up in the project to cover large parts of the country so that the impact could be felt.
He observed that WHO would continue to support the country to deliver quality health services to the people.
Concerned citizens nonetheless, observe that PHC will achieve better results if it is embraced more by the community.
They also noted that tackling multifarious problem of the PHC requires an all-inclusive approach that goes beyond merely building model PHC clinics.
They suggest that the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency must be strengthened and encouraged to partner with other stakeholders to deliver on its mandate of supporting the implementation of the PHC guidelines.
According to them, the agency ought to be doing more than it is presently doing to provide the needed support for planning, management and implementation of PHC guidelines.
They also advise that intensive enlightenment campaign must be carried out by the government to educate all the stakeholders involved in PHC implementation on why all should work towards making the scheme successful.