BY ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH, Lagos
As stated by the Miniof Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, one of the cardinal programmes of President Mohammadu Buhari’s administration is to engage in massive revitalization of Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) in Nigeria in order to ensure that quality basic health services is delivered to Nigerian masses irrespective of their location in the country.
He also revealed that the government’s intention is to focus on providing health services to over 70 percent of Nigerians living in the rural areas including the vulnerable such as women, children under five years of age and the elderly.
Similarly, the Lagos state government has tried to assure its residents of its resolve to make PHCs the first port of call for medical emergencies and improvement of the entire healthcare system.
However, residents in Lagos have called on the government to employ more doctors and make drugs available in PHCs cum hospitals to enhance delivery.
A retired Civil Servant, who pleaded anonymous, said the shortage of personnel, especially doctors, has been hampering healthcare delivery at the hospital.
He said, “The insufficient number of doctors has been affecting service delivery here. We have suffered a lot for the state. We need not to suffer to get standard healthcare. In fact, if it is possible, the government can create a special hospital for senior citizens and more can be done through provision of free quality drugs for old people.”
Mr Isiaka Ahmed, a 69-year-old patient said that the slow pace of attending to patients remained worrisome to the old people like him.
“Health officers are trying, but the workers are not sufficient. If a doctor is attending to so many patients, he or she cannot go far before getting tired. It is so slow that since 6 a.m. that I got here, I have been not been attended to as at 12 noon. I have been sitting for hours and my legs are now swollen; government should do more in engaging more hands,’’ Ahmed said.
Ahmed also complained that only cheap drugs are usually available while the patients would have to buy the expensive ones.
Another resident, Mr Lawrence Fabunmi said, “The problem here is shortage of personnel and drugs. The process is so slow and time consuming, government should help us.’’
In his reaction, Chairman, Lagos State House of Assembly Committee on Health Services, Segun Olulade said, although the government cannot handle all, but it would try its best and employ more doctors and continue to work towards renovating health facilities to improve services.
He said, “I know we have shortage of staff, space and power, we will try and engage more hands; we have started renovation and there is a provision in 2017 budget to get more personnel.
“Let no one doubt the commitment of government on provision of effective and efficient health services. The House of Assembly is passionate about providing quality healthcare services for the people at the grassroots.”
He also revealed that Lagos state House of Assembly Committee on Health Services recently did an assessment of PHCs in order to enhance quality healthcare delivery at grassroots.
“Before June, a minimum of over 50 PHCs will be upgraded. They will be completed in the next six months and equipped,” he added.
Olulade also warned workers in public healthcare facilities who impose illegal charges on patients, adding that the state government would not tolerate sharp practices or unprofessional conduct in its health institutions and anyone caught would be made to face the music.
He appealed to health workers to eliminate delays and be prompt in attending to patients. “My major concern is that we want an efficient healthcare service delivery like the one obtainable in developed countries. We don’t want anyone to be complaining about our services,’’ he said.
The lawmaker however urged residents to visit PHCs who should in turn refer them to tertiary health facilities should the need arise.
“What many patients look for in secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities can be received at PHCs that are closer to them. We need to strengthen our referral system. There are so many crowds at our General Hospitals and this is not justifying huge investments we have made to transform our PHCs.
“Patients even have access to 24 hours healthcare services all week days in some of our PHCs. People should go there; we built these health facilities with tax payers’ money and people should use them,” he said.
The lawmaker called on the Sole Administrators of all the 20 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) to do more on sensitising the public on services available at PHCs.
In view of this, he urged council administrators to liaise with the leadership of the Community Development Associations (CDAs) and Community Development Committees (CDCs) in their respective councils.
“We have not done enough sensitisation on services available at our PHCs. We need to go into the town and tell the people. Let’s create massive awareness. Our people must use the PHCs, because they are now upgraded with modern equipment,” he said.
The Acting Medical Director, General Hospital Ifako-Ijaiye, Dr (Mrs) Erivea Kuti, also identified shortage of staff and space constraints as major challenges facing the hospital.
“We rotate our doctors across sections because the demand is high. Patients come from Ogun, Oyo, even as far as Anambra, to access health care here and we cannot send them away.
“We will continue to improve as the government has shown great commitment. However, we need more nurses and doctors. Another challenge is space,’’ Kuti said.