PHC: Health Should be prioritized in Ebonyi, not building bridges on dry land – EBHA lawmaker
By Chinwe Imo-Eze Onwosi
The member Ebonyi State House of Assembly, representing Ebonyi North West, and Committee chairman on Health, Hon, Victor Aleke, has called on the state government to prioritize primary health care delivery to the people rather building bridges on dry land.
The lawmaker who spoke during a 3-day Annual Accountability Forum on the state of service of health care delivery bemoaned the state of the general hospitals without manpower, or skilled medical personnel.
The town hall meeting organised by Development and Integrity Intervention Goals Foundation, DIG, a Civil Society Organization, in collaboration United States Agency for International Development-funded Integrated Health Program, USAID-IHP hosted relevant government representatives and lawmakers primary healthcare workers, traditional rulers, community development committees, Civil society Organisations, the media and other key healthcare stakeholders, from the North, Central and South senatorial zones of the State respectively to dialogue on the way forward for better healthcare delivery in the State.
Hon Aleke lauded the efforts of the organisers and called on collective effort from every to get things working in the PHC’s
He said: “I thank the IHP and the DIG for bringing to the consciousness of the people that the right thing should be done.
“If this was to be done in Abuja, and somebody is invited, the Commissioner will not send a representative.
“The commissioner would want to enjoy his air ticket and so on and so forth.
“But because it is being done at this level, somebody is sending someone else to represent him.
“I am not here to address political issues, but social services that an average Ebonyi man should have at his disposal.
“Aside other things, health should be provided to the people of Ebonyi, not building bridges on dry land; not fencing the so-called General Hospitals where there is no manpower, and no skilled medical workers in the field.
“I have a Primary health care centre in my village, and not even a single trained professional is there; yet, the Government has not been able to employ them for eight years.
“This Government has actually, in its entirety, failed Ebonyi people in issues relating to health.
“To partners who have actually brought their money, I want to ask them to continue with their goodwill.
“It will not continue to be this way.
“In a couple of months, Ebonyi will smile again.
“Put politics aside, we have not gotten it right because this is a forum where the Commissioner for Health should have addressed the community people; address our skilled workers at the field and the key gatekeepers at the different communities.
“The truth of the matter is that Ebonyi has failed in issues relating to health, and I am part of those who have actually failed.”
Speaking on the objectives of the meeting, the Executive Director, DIG foundation, Oliver Aja Chima, explained that it was designed to offer opportunity to service providers to give account of their stewardship to the people.
“We noticed that there is a gap between the citizens and the people that provide these services, so, we have provided this platform through the support of IHP for them to give account of what they are doing especially in primary healthcare facilities: how is it going; how are they serving the people; are the people actually satisfied with their services?
“So, it is a platform of citizens, government, coming together to discuss issues around primary health.”
On the status of primary healthcare facilities in the State, Chima stated: “You see, if you go some places, you will see fine buildings, but there are no human beings working there.
“And when you talk about quality healthcare services, you must bring in the human resource factor: the people that can take care of the sick ones.
“I have said it over time that if you remove development workers, remove Civil Society Organisations, our health system will collapse.
“It is very worrisome.”
In her remarks, the USAID-IHP Leadership and Governance Advisor, Mrs Chiunyere Ikwuakor, maintained that public accountability was not to be left for the government alone, as the citizens equally have some roles to play.
She noted that USAID – IHP, which came into the State in 2020, has made remarkable impact across the three senatorial zones of the State having been working in at least one primary healthcare facility in the 171 wards and thirteen local government areas in the State.
She emphasized that the forum was not a fault-finding meeting, but an avenue for the both sides to think together toward finding solutions to the problems of primary healthcare in the State.
Participants who spoke at the event, including some officers in charge of healthcare facilities across the State, Ward development committee members, community leaders and civil society organizations identified gross inadequacy of qualified health staff, lack of power; lack of potable water supply, lack of toilet and other basic health equipments, as well as insecurity, as some of the factors militating against PHC services.
They appealed to the government to, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of shortage of qualified health workers in the State.
One of the participants from Afikpo North, Hajiya Sadiah Hamsa, stated: “the challenges we are facing in this country, not only in Ebonyi, is that people who are qualified and very eager to do the job are not taken, based on the fact that they have no influential person to speak for them.
“Using auxiliary staff, unqualified nurses, to run our primary healthcare facilities is a risk to our lives, and I think that if this program should achieve its desired goals, that is the first thing to be addressed.
“The government should look into that.”
Another participant, the Regent of Agalegu Ishieke autonomous community in Ebonyi Local government area of the State, Prince Paul Ajibo, submitted that his community ensures the security of both humans and materials sent to their primary health facilities, as part of their contributions in ensuring effectiveness.
He however, regretted that none of the two primary healthcare centres in his area have adequate facilities and manpower.
“The people have the desire, but the facilities are not encouraging.
“The government has tried a lot, but there is no sufficient staff to get it working.
“A situation where only one person or two will be in a facility is not good at all” Ajibo submitted.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner for Finance and Economic Development in the State, Mr Orlando Nweze, in an interview debunked the allegation that the government has failed.
The Commissioner, represented by the Director, planning in the Ministry, Mr Chijioke Ogbodo, maintained that the health sector was allotted the highest chunk of the state’s budget.
Ogbodo stressed: “For me, the government has not failed, knowing full well that Rome was not built in a day.
“If you go to our budget performance, health is even taking the highest chunk of the finance.
“For us in finance, it means that the government is pushing a lot to health development”. he stated
“But, peradventure, there are areas the government needs to do more, this is an avenue for them to tell us, and we will take it up from there.”
Updates of services were received from the Ebonyi State Health Insurance Agency, the state Primary Healthcare Development Agency, officers in-charge of Health Centres, Ward Development committees, among others, at the event.