Jude Chinedu, Enugu
Nigeria arguably has the worst statistics in primary health care world over. One of the communities with such pathetic case of inaccessibility to primary health care is Aguibeje, an agrarian community in Igboeze North Local Government Area of Enugu state where its only facility was abandoned for over 15 years.
Daily Sun gathered that residents of the community have been hapless and have cried out to the authorities to come to their aid. They either travel several miles to get medical care at Ogrute, the council area headquarters or resort to traditional medicine practitioners. This according to them has led to the death of several persons including children who reportedly died of curable ailments.
When Daily Sun visited the community, it discovered that the only health facility in the community was overgrown by weed. We also learnt that health officers posted to work in the place operated from the comfort of their homes.
According to Chairman, Aguibeje Council of Elders, Chief Emmanuel Ugwuanyi, the hospital has become desolate. He said that many people die because there was no nearby hospital or health care facility to take care of them.
“People are dying in this community because there is no hospital or functional health centre here. The only hospital is in faraway Ogrute. Before you could take a patient to that hospital, he/she might have died. We are suffering here”, he lamented.
Continuing, he said: “The hospital here started going down 15 years ago when criminals stole some facilities. It’s now a desolate area, no nurse, no staff. Nothing is there. They have abandoned the place.
“I know that nurses posted here are receiving salary without working. This health centre has the largest building with staff quarters in Enugu state but today it’s not functioning.
“The community needs the hospital; the neighbouring communities like Ishi-ala and Iyi-Onu which had been using the hospital are now suffering because before they could reach Aguibeje community to continue their journey to Ogrute, the patient might have passed away.
“In this our own time, we need that hospital for timely intervention. Even if it will be providing only first aid before going to Ogrute for treatment, it will be okay for us.”
He narrated his sad personal experience of almost losing her daughter when she was sick. “My daughter was sick recently. By the time she collapsed, I couldn’t find where to take her for treatment. I had to hire a vehicle which charged me N5,000 to take her to Ogrute for treatment. I thank God she survived after taking much time. A lot of lives have been lost because of the condition of this health centre.”
A market woman, Mrs Theresa Ugwu, who also told her own story, said that she rarely goes for antenatal, because of the distance to Ogrute, revealing that she patronises a local patent medicine store whenever she was ill. She further disclosed that three of her relatives died during childbirth in the community, in the last three years.
“We find it difficult to go for antenatal services during pregnancy because of the distance between our village and the nearest place to get medical services which is Ogrute or a private clinic at Umuida. The distance is several kilometres from here. So, for us to access health care, we have to use motorcycle, as such, women here delivered at home with the help of traditional birth attendants.
“We do not have good road here and one cannot easily get cars or motorcycles. Sometimes we trek, but when a woman is in labour in the night it becomes more difficult to even contemplate going to hospital”, she lamented.
Public Relations Officer of Igboeze North local government, Mrs Mabel Obioma, in a telephone interview, confirmed the pitiable state of the health centre.
“What I know is that the place is dilapidated and it’s not working. I know that that place was functioning like a hospital before and even doctors came there for operations. They used to do that but for some time now, the people are complaining,” she stated.
She added that nobody should expect the nurses there to go and stay in an abandoned or dilapidated structure.
Asked whether there was plan for the local government to resuscitate the facility, Mrs. Obioma said: “I’m not aware of any plans”.