The abysmally poor state of Sagbokoji Primary Health Centre in Lagos State has again laid bare the shameful and gloomy level of the country’s primary healthcare system, and its inability to bring healthcare closer to the people, especially in rural areas. Martins Ifijeh writes
When Lagos State government wants to showcase a working Primary Heath Centre (PHC) for the world to see, they will most likely talk about the Ikeja PHC, as it contains basic healthcare facilities to cater for people within the environment. They will showcase Alausa PHC because there are doctors and nurses on ground to attend to patients. They will showcase Festac PHC because there is running water and the toilet system is in good shape.
But the Sagbokoji PHC in AmuwoOdofin Local Government Area of the state will not be talked about. It will only at best be mentioned as one of the PHCs in Lagos State. They will not take the World Health Organisation or journalists to see the PHC. They will not take the world to see the healthcare centre, because the world will be disappointed in them. The world will wonder how a state that prides itself as the economic hub of the country can establish a PHC that lacks even the tiniest of details, and then go ahead to commission it for hundreds of thousands of people to use as their only source of healthcare.
PHCs are supposed to bring succour to people in need of medical attention within their immediate environment, but to the people of Sagbokoji community, they see the PHC as a repellant and a shame to their community. It has nothing that would make a reasonable person want to access healthcare there.
For specifics; the hospital has no single doctor, no nurse, no single drug, no toilet system, no running water, no cleaner, etc. The PHC only boast of a lady who acts as the gate woman, doctor, nurse, pharmacist, gardener and cleaner. All she does is report to work every morning, open the entrance of the hospital, sit and wait till 4pm to return to her house after all, nobody comes there for healthcare.
Investigation by THISDAY revealed that the appalling state of the health centre started when the former Chairman of Amuwo Odofin LGA, Mr. AyodeleAdewale, handed over to the
present Executive Secretary of the LGA, Deaconess Modupe Ojodu. And since then, the local and state government have somewhat removed the health of the people in the community from their agenda, by reason of abandoning the PHC which ordinarily is the residents’ only source of healthcare.
The investigation revealed that the people of the community have since the middle of last year given up on the health facility. Even when they need emergency health attention, the hospital is the least of their focus. They consider the PHC as a building just occupying space with no usefulness attached to it.
‘’Years ago, we used to patronise this PHC very often, but I doubt if parents from this community will take their children there anymore for healthcare, because we know nothing is happening there,’’ said Omolayo, a community member who stopped accessing the facility since July last year.
According to her, the last time there was presence of activities in the clinic was when four National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) doctors were posted there; adding that since they passed out in June last year, nothing had been done by the government to send other doctors back to the community. “It’s even worse now because apart from the absence of doctors here, there is no single nurse and no drugs in the clinic,’’ Omolayo revealed.
When THISDAY met the only staff of the PHC who identified herself as Grace, she said she acts as just the gate keeper, who meets the few patients patronising them and offer them ‘best advices’ on how to go about their health issues. “I am the nurse here, when I meet patients and their cases are beyond what I can handle, I just tell them to seek help elsewhere,” she explained.
THISDAY however learnt from a different source that Grace was not a qualified nurse.
‘’I have been here for several years now and it has been surprising how things have moved from bad to worse in this clinic. Nobody comes here again for help. Imagine a situation where pregnant women come here to register for antenatal and anytime they visit the clinic, they don’t see any doctor. This automatically drives them away, and they end up patronising TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendants) within the community.
“When patients come and complain, I just do the little I can, but when it is beyond me and no doctor is available to take it from there, what do you expect?’’ She queried.
Like a vote of no confidence on the government for not playing its statutory role in providing access to healthcare for people of the community, Grace revealed that since the PHC was not able to provide healthcare for the residents, TBAs were having a boom, as most pregnant women patronise them for ante natal, delivery and other forms of treatment, like malaria, typhoid, among others. “They even take their children there for any form of health issue.
Sometimes I wonder how an ordinary TBA will be the one doing what the hospital is supposed to do,’’ she noted.
She believed the fact that the community residents patronise TBAs rather than a proper health facility, has in no small measure added to the high mortality rate and increased incidents of health issues in the community and the neighboring communities.
‘’Sometime late last year, Deaconess Ojodu came here after several complaints were made.
Even though she promised to do something about the PHC, nothing has been heard since then. She even promised to bring doctors and nurses, but nothing till now. So, for me, am just doing my job, that’s why I come here every day as government wants,’’ she explained.
On whether she administers treatment herself since there are no other workers in the centre, Grace said all she does when patients come was to do the diagnosis she can do, write
prescriptions for them, and then advise them to go get it, or ask them to access other healthcare centres.
Asked if there were drugs in the facility, she said: ‘’for several months now we have not taken delivery of any drug. Even paracetamol, we don’t have here. A lot of things have changed since the past one year. But I pray they rectify it so that the hospital can start working properly again,’’ she added.
When THISDAY also visited the Baale of Sagbokoji Island, Chief Anthony Ovime, to know the efforts they have made so far to ensure a proper healthcare centre for the community, he explained that they have complained a number of times to the local and state governments, yet nothing happened.
‘’I went with some of my people to Ikeja to complain. They sent representatives to ascertain what can be done in the health centre, but that was the last we heard of them,’’ he explained.
Ovime, who looked frustrated by the efforts so far, told THISDAY that both the local and state governments keep taking the island for granted, but make it their beautiful bride whenever election was around the corner.
‘’Prior to the last election, they were all coming to my palace to make promises. Among what they promised was putting the health centre in place. On several occasions I have called one of the personal assistants to Governor Ambode, but the PA no longer pick my calls. I turned to the Executive Secretary of our local government, same thing with her. When I call, she doesn’t
respond fine, yet, our women and children are dying every day because there are no drugs and good facilities to take care of them. The only good thing they still have with us is that people here love Tinubu, but with time, we might have to look beyond that in our future dealings,’’ he explained.
Time will tell how much longer the people of Sagbokoji community will wait till they get a working PHC that will address their health needs.