The Director, Department of Planning Research and Statistics, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Garba Bulama, on behalf of the Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, has said that late funds affect the primary healthcare service delivery. “Primary healthcare should be seen as priority. It should be seen as economic investment because as you are investing in the PHCs, you are investing in the health of the nation. There should be a commitment to implement the PHC framework. The federal and state government should wake up to its responsibility and ensure adequate funding. There has to be a service package.
Bulama said this at a Health webinar themed “Negligence of PHCs Constraining The Fight Against Covid-19 In Nigeria” organised by the Premium Times Centre for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) via zoom.
He said the challenges primary healthcare centres are not optimising well because over the years, there had been late incomplete appropriation. “Funds are moved at the end of the physical year. Also poor engagement of the states and lack of facilities had been a challenge.
According to PTCIJ, healthcare centres have been neglected over the years despite yearly financial allocations. Despite huge budgetary allocations provided in the Zonal Intervention Budget for the construction and equipping of Primary Health Centres in Nigeria, investigations by PTCIJ through the PHC tracker and the UDEME project (as well as other civil society organisations) have revealed that the allocated funds are not commensurate with the realities on the ground.
“At NPHCDA, we are clear on what our roles are. For the outbreak response to be successful, we need to protect lives of our health workers & all Nigerians. We have to safeguard livelihood & ensure routine health services continue in our health facilities,” Bulama said.
Dr. Stanley Ukpai, a senior technical officer at Development Project Research Center said primary healthcare is one of the best investments a country could make. Improvement in physical and mental wellbeing is as a result of investment in primary healthcare. “In the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, we accessed the services in some of the healthcare centres in Kaduna, Kano and Niger and discovered that PHC facilities which use to experience high patronage are now low in those locations. We also found out that people had more preference for more modern facilities in their neighbouring community.
Ukpai added: “They were willing to go to go to a better equipped facility. We discovered that service provision had dropped in primary healthcare. In Niger state 67 per cent were providing services, 46 per cent in Kano and 50 per cent in Kaduna. Effective leadership, thorough research and effective service delivery is important. To restore confidence in PHC, there must adequate infrastructure and human resource for health. We must work to maintain the timely momentum, government should release fund for PHC.
Media should continue to amplify those issues so that government can be more aware.” Dr. Terkaa Bitto, senior registrar, Epidemiology, Community/public health said when the PHCs are functional; we will actually win the fight against covid-19 faster. “This is not the time to deprioritise our primary healthcare. If we don’t find our healthcare, we will see destruction in immunisation and family planning. Also, diseases should be picked early. Training and retraining of frontline health workers is essential. Our primary healthcare should be strengthened to win the battle against COVID-19.”