JOE EFFIONG, UYO
Primary health sub-sector in Akwa Ibom State has been substantially neglected despite the government efforts at boosting the hitherto comatose healthcare delivery system in the state.
Investigations by Daily Sun as supported by several verbalizations by the state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel reveals that the state government has embarked on massive renovations and reconstruction of state-owned general hospitals at least one in each of the 10 federal constituencies in the state, such as in Etinan, Oron, Ikot Okoro, Ituk Mbang, Awa and Eket even as the state multi-specialty hospital , known as Ibom Specialist Hospital is said to have been equipped with up to date facilities.
Emmanuel in his 6th anniversary broadcast described the 300 bed Infectious Diseases Control Centre equipped with one of the best PCR laboratories and an 18-bed ICU and HDU centres as the ‘Miracle of Ituk Mbang’, just as he said that the newly commissioned Medical Gas and Vacuum Plant, has the capacity to supply 1000 beds with oxygen and perform suction functions for 1000 patients at the same time, and that the facility is the largest in size in the nation today.
While emphasis is placed on the secondary and quaternary health facilities and equipment, not much can be said about the primary healthcare which has been equally neglected for decades but which is closer to the people and patronized mostly by the poor and the needy.
Some of the primary health centres in the state, many of which were built by local government councils, had since been abandoned and grasses taking over the premises.
Apart from the primary health centres in Uyo metropolis, especially the one along Wellington Bassey and about300 metres to Government House, many others are not even as good as the cemetery.
But that PHC has also become an extortionist centre as the much touted free healthcare for pregnant women and children under fiver years, is only on paper.
“You can’t go there to treat your baby of malaria without spending between N3000 and N5000, same with pregnant women,” Mrs Udeme Effiong told Daily Sun.
At the Primary Health Centre Ikot Akata, Mkpat Enin, roof of the quarters for medical workers had long been removed by the wind, while the main centre had lost all its doors, windows and the main hall leaking heavily, there was no presence of any health worker as at time of visit.
A similar fate has befallen the ones at Ikot Iko Ibesikpo and another at Ndiya in Nsit Ubium where patronage is almost zero due to lack of care by the state and local government.
Like primary education, primary healthcare which is supposed to be under the local government council, has in practice, been the responsibility of the state, who pays the staff and supposedly equips the centres with facilities and drugs.
A visit to Primary Health Centre off Uruan street in Uyo which is in Ewet Housing Estate showed that the centre is in dire need of help.It lacks the capacity to provide essential health-care services, in addition to having issues such as poor distribution of health workers and essential drug to administer to patients at any given time.
A senior health care worker at the centre who craved anonymity told our correspondent that patients stopped coming to the centre because of poor quality of health-care services, poor condition of infrastructure, and lack of essential drugs.
The state of the only Primary health Centre at Mbiabong community in Itu local government area of Akwa Ibom state is deplorable. Our Correspondent who visited the place reports that the Centre has not been renovated nor equipped with drugs for a long time amidst low patronage of patients
A staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity described the place as a ‘glorified Centre’ with little or nothing to show for It as a medical Centre.
“There is nothing much taking place. The drugs are always in short supply and that is the situation we have found ourselves in for a long time now. So, we prescribe for patients and ask them most at times to purchase from pharmacies outside. And talking in terms of renovation, you can see for yourself” the source said.
Some primary health centres in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district however appear to fare much better, some of them benefiting from international donor agencies like Maria Stopes, Helen Kela and Bill/Melinda Gate foundations.
The legendary neglect of primary healthcare by successive administrations in Akwa Ibom State has forced pregnant women to continue to patronize traditional birth attendants.
A classical case is of the primary health centre at Ifa Ikot Okpon, Etoi in Uyo local government area of the state which has a Traditional Birth Attendant (TBA) home located opposite it, our correspondent observed heavy patronage of the TBA by pregnant women instead of the PHC. .
Mrs Glory Peter, who was at the TBA place explained her preference for BTA. “”I am Mrs. Glory Peter. I have five children and four of them were delivered here. I love being here anytime because Mma is very nice and experienced in maternity services.
“If you ask all of us here, you will be surprised to hear everyone speaks good about this Mma. She is caring and pays serious attention to all of us during and after labour once you are here. Her fee is quite affordable though it varies according to the personality of persons involved.” She said.