The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has urged politicians to make infrastructure and human resources a priority to strengthen primary health care (PHC) centres in the country.
The executive director, NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib said this yesterday (December 15, 2022) during the award ceremony for the Nasarawa State governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, for his giant strides toward primary healthcare development in his state.
Science Nigeria reports that in August 2022, the NPHCDA recognised Nasarawa State as being at the forefront of implementing best practices in COVID-19 vaccination and routine immunisation among other states of the federation, including the Federal Capital Territory.
According to Shuaib, PHCs across the country need more human resources, the right infrastructure, equipment, commodities and utilities to lay a solid foundation for the country’s healthcare system. “The foundation of every health care,” he said “is the primary healthcare. Instead of spending huge amounts of resources building large tertiary care facilities and fantastic specialist hospitals that people don’t even go to, put the right things in our PHCs so that Nigerians can access quality care.
“A large proportion of our population of over 70 per cent are in rural areas and the access that they have for care is the PHCs close to them.
PHCs, he disclosed, would be able to manage some of the minor conditions being handled at the tertiary [level]. This would greatly decongest [the tertiary] and ensure proper attention for more complex diseases and conditions.
“The tertiary centres will focus on more complex disease conditions, not a situation where you find people lining up in the outpatient departments of tertiary hospitals trying to treat diarrhoea or malaria.
“If people are in tertiary hospitals for malaria, it has to be due to complicated malaria, not uncomplicated malaria.
“This government has made a lot of progress in [developing] the primary healthcare compared to the previous government. But we also know that we’re not where we need to be. In the next few months, we’ll continue to encourage leaders such as the governor of Nasarawa State and those of some states doing so well, too, to continue to provide the leadership that is required to bring our communities together, irrespective of our political leanings and ideologies.”
Shuaib reasoned that to improve Nigerians’ health, primary health care is the place to start and, in this regard, the agency has achieved fantastic coverage in COVID-19 vaccination, especially given the fact that the agency is short-staffed.
“But we have seen frontline health workers cross rivers and climb mountains just to get vaccines to Nigerians.
“There’s a lot that needs to be done; but with constant push and clear focus on the goal, we will achieve improvement in primary health care.
“One thing that we’ve done today is using examples like what we’re seeing in Nasarawa State where the governor is in front and centre in providing the resources for primary health care.
“We’ve seen this in Jigawa, Kwara, Kaduna and Borno states. We’ve seen in several states, where the governors are mobilising traditional leaders, mobilising religious leaders and giving the correct information about routine immunisation, not just COVID-19 vaccination.
“This is why despite the pandemic and the setbacks it came with, we’ve seen that Nigeria is only one of four countries globally where routine immunisation improved.
“We have our challenges in the primary healthcare space, but it is very clear that we are on the right path towards achieving our goals,” Shuaib expanded.
Meanwhile, Sule while interacting with newsmen said his government does as much as it can to set up sustainable foundations, even though it does not have enough manpower spread across its 700 PHCs.
“Our policy is that, if anybody is coming with a commitment to drive development in the state, it will remain sustainable fund-wise.
“Therefore, the state gives automatic employment to all the qualified nurses graduating from the state’s nursing schools.
“Nasarawa State still requires a lot of other competent people in the medical profession and, if you look at it, we just established the medical school at the Federal University in Lafia.
“We’re just establishing our teaching hospital for the first time. Nasarawa is one of the states without a teaching hospital,” he disclosed.