the pathetic state of most of the primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, as reported last week by a national newspaper, is worrisome. It is one report that should worry the concerned health authorities. The report stated that primary healthcare centres across the FCT lack equipment, drugs, electricity and even qualified manpower. Most patients on admission have no access to bed spaces. We recall that the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, once lampooned the poor state of the Aso Rock Clinic.
The deplorable condition at the PHCs in the nation’s capital is not only embarrassing but also a sad commentary on the nation’s health care delivery system. It is also reflective of the state of health facilities in other parts of the country, especially in the rural areas. Indeed, if the health facilities in the capital city and its satellite communities are in a decrepit state, the fate of similar healthcare centres in less visible parts of the country can only be imagined.
All over the world, primary health care centres are usually the most important segment of the public health system. The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes the primary healthcare centre as the basic structural and functional unit of the public health services in developing countries. According to WHO, primary health centres are established to provide accessible, affordable and available primary healthcare to people, in accordance with the Alma Ata declaration of 1978 by world leaders.
The primary health care is designed to address the people’s health care for a lifetime. The physical, mental and social well-being of an individual is supposed to be attended to under the primary healthcare, since it is people-centred rather than disease-centred. WHO explains that primary healthcare is a total, whole-of-society approach that includes health promotion, disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care.
Last week’s report was not the first time that the alarm would be sounded over the unhealthy state of primary health care centres in the
FCT. In September last year, the Chairman of the National Association of Nurses and Midwives, (NANNM), Deborah Yesufu, complained about the poor state of funding and the appalling facilities in most of the public hospitals within Abuja and its environs.
The challenges she observed included manpower shortage and inadequate equipment of the health care facilities in the city. Unfortunately, the story has not significantly changed.
There is no doubt that the FCT health authorities are aware of the deplorable condition of their primary healthcare centres. The Acting Executive Secretary of the FCT Primary Health Care Board (PHCB), Dr. Ndaeyo Iwot, admitted that of the 239 primary healthcare centres within the six area councils in the FCT, only 30 are adequately equipped.
It is important that the government should pay greater attention to the primary health centres, not just in the FCT, but also across the country. Since funding has been a major challenge, we urge all tiers of government to work in concert to address the funding gap in the health sector. We believe that many of the nation’s health crises, including the current onslaught of Lassa fever, can be addressed at the primary health centres if they are adequately equipped.
It is obvious that inadequate funding of the health sector has been responsible for the poor state of the nation’s primary health centres. The national budget for health, which hovers between four per cent and five per cent has not augured well for the sector. To worsen the situation, the money budgeted for the sector at times is not timely released. For the country to achieve universal health coverage, there is need to allocate 15 per cent or 20 per cent of the national budget to the health sector.
We enjoin the three tiers of government to institute more policies that would boost the health of the citizens. The primary health care centres should be more equipped to check diseases at this level. Government should be more committed to promoting the welfare of health workers to check the rising brain drain in the healthcare sector.
With 70 per cent of the nation’s disease burden occurring at the primary care level, it is important that our leaders prioritise the primary health centres. The health care needs of many poor Nigerians who depend on the primary care centres must be addressed. The government should take note that their lives also matter. We believe that addressing the health needs of all Nigerians by adequately equipping all our hospitals is the best way to curb the thriving medical tourism.