By Ummul Idris
The Federal Government inaugurated the Primary Health Care plan (PHC) in the National Health Policy of 1988 to improve equity in access and utilisation of basic health services.
Because of its concept as a grassroots model for providing healthcare services to communities, former Minister of Health Olikoye Ransome-Kuti developed model PHCs in 52 local governments between 1986 and 1992.
However, some users have observed that PHC centres are faced with many challenges that have somewhat defeated the purpose of the programme.
Mrs Joy Adams, a resident of Dei-Dei a suburb of Abuja, said that she noticed various challenges in accessing healthcare on the platform of PHC plan on several occasions.
Problems, ranging from near-absence of drug when needed to inadequate health workers and poor condition of the health centre due to lack of maintenance, characterise the programme, some critics of the programme allege.
Similarly, Mrs Kemi Ariyo, a resident of Kwali in Abuja, said that accessing medical care at the PHCs had become a mirage in Kwali.
She alleged that “there is no facility to take care of patients, the health workers are not responsive and that they come to the centre at will’’.
Ariyo noted that the development might be as a result of what she described as discouraging state of some heath facilities in the centre.
Concerned citizens similarly observe that health workers in most of the centres struggle everyday to attend to patients even when the facilities are in short supply.
Dr Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of National Primary Health Care Development Agency, admits that the state of PHC centres in the country is not appropriate.
She observes further that the country’s primary healthcare services are not working optimally as expected.
She, nonetheless, promises that NPHCDA is working to proffer solution to the poor condition of PHCs across the country to give the needed service to the people in the rural areas.
In an apparent response to this challenge, President Muhammadu Buhari inaugurated a revitalisation programme to revive PHC centres.
Inaugurating a model PHC clinic in Kurchigoro, Abuja, the president said that the Federal Government would revitalise 10,000 PHC facilities across the country in phases.
The president emphasised that the ultimate objective in revitalising the PHC centres was to ensure that quality basic health care services were delivered to Nigerians irrespective of their locations.
Buhari also said that the facilities would provide services at minimal or no cost and focus on people living in the rural areas as well the vulnerable populations.
Giving more assurance, Minister of Health Isaac Adewale says revamping the comatose PHC centres across the country will help strengthen and develop the nation’s healthcare system.
Similarly, Dr David Osifo, Commissioner for Health in Edo, says the state government has trained no fewer than 200 nurses for the 20 pilot PHC centres across the state, urging other states to replicate.
Beside this, to ensure unhindered access to healthcare, the Nigeria Medical Association promises its collaboration with the Federal Government to boost the services of PHC centres in the country.
Dr Francis Faduyile, the President of the association, notes that members of the association are doing a lot to ensure adequate support for healthcare services at the grassroots and improve the healthcare standard in the country.
According to him, the association has been working with the government at the grassroots to ensure that PHC centres are well developed.
He says the association has been canvassing for adequate funding of healthcare centres and it has gone further to canvass for better equipment for such health facilities.
“We have been calling on state governments saddled with the employment of doctors to deploy doctors to the PHCs across the country,’’ Faduyile says.
Observing the efforts of the Federal Government at revitalising the PHC centres across the country, the World Health Organisation (WHO) commends the Buhari-led administration.
Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, the Director-General, made the commendation when he visited one of the revitalised PHC centres at Kuchigoro, FCT-Abuja.
Ghebreyesus explained that the present government’s effort to revamp PHCs was in line with WHO’s programme to ensure every citizen access healthcare.
“I am glad to be in Nigeria and visited this PHC centre, what Nigeria is doing now is in line with global practice.
“I am also happy that the project is focusing on mobilisation which is commendable; a project of this nature cannot succeed without involving the people; and having the community as the owner is the right thing to do,’’ he said.
The director-general urged the government to speed up in the project to cover large parts of the country so that the impact could be felt.
He observed that WHO would continue to support the country to deliver quality health services to the people.
Concerned citizens nonetheless, observe that PHC will achieve better results if it is embraced more by the community.
They also note that tackling multifarious problem of the PHC requires an all-inclusive approach that goes beyond merely building model PHC clinics.
They suggest that National Primary Healthcare Development Agency must be strengthened and encouraged to partner with other stakeholders to deliver on its mandate of supporting the implementation of the PHC guidelines.
According to them, the agency ought to be doing more than it is presently doing to provide the needed support for planning, management and implementation of PHC guidelines.
They also advise that intensive enlightenment campaign must be carried out by the government to educate all the stakeholders involved in PHC implementation on why all should work towards making the scheme successful.