From George Onyejiuwa, Owerri
A public health expert and Fulbright scholar, Prof. Raymond Chimezie has said that the absence of a functional public health system in the country was responsible for the incessant outbreak of meningitis, which has claimed many lives.
Chimezie, who is currently on a one year sabbatical programme at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, in an exclusive chat with Sunday Sun, said the public health system in the country was dysfunctional, noting that it lacked the facilities and manpower to function optimally.
He said: “There is no public health system in Nigeria because you are talking about a coordinated system that takes care of people’s health, which means that there has to be a well-coordinated primary health care system.
Even though we have primary health care centres in all the local council areas of the country, they are not functional because they lack the required facilities and manpower to function effectively and deliver services to the people.
“So, the so-called primary health care centres in Nigeria are ineffective, dysfunctional and are not tailored to the needs of the community they are meant to serve.”
He further said the absence of effective public health system was responsible for the perennial out break of meningitis in the north in the last 15 years.
“We have continued to have this report of meningitis in the north for the past 15 years and so it is not something new; the problem has been there and it has continued to claim more lives. If the primary health care system is really functional, what they should have done the first time it occurred is to investigate why it occurred and where and come out with a solution to prevent its reoccurrence.
“Meningitis is preventable through vaccination but the vaccination is not there. So, if the people have been vaccinated especially school children, because the virus spreads faster in crowded places, and again conditions in the north is getting drier. What is needed is a surveillance system in the country but there is no such system in place right now.”
He noted that for the primary health care system to be effective and of help to the overall public health, it has to become the responsibility of the states and not the local councils, as is presently the case.