Peter Uzoho who visited the Primary Health Centre in Ohoba in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, reports that the centre has been reduced to housing stray goats due to years of neglect
The ultimate aim of conceptualising and setting up Primary Health Centres (PHC) in communities is to provide quality and affordable healthcareto the people as part of government’s mandate to them.
Realising this, it is expected that while setting up these critical institutions, government will ensure that basic structures are put in place to meet the objectives. Specifically, it is expected that these PHCs will be made functional by equipping them with the necessary facilities, qualified medical personnel (doctors, midwives and nurses), ensuring seamless provision of standard drugs, and effective management system. Also it is expected that government will ensure the sustainability of these critical institutions by continuously monitoring them through relevant agencies.
Unfortunately, the sooner these PHCs are set up, the sooner they are abandoned by the government.
The deplorable state of the Primary Health Centre in Ohoba, in Ohaji/Egbema Local Government Area of Imo State, apparently shows the level of the state government’s insensitivity to the health challenges of the people of rural areas in the state. As pathetic as the condition of the Ohoba PHC has been for more than 10 years, successive governments in the state have never shown any sign of concern towards rehabilitating it.
Built in 1981 out of community effort, and handed over to the state government for provision of equipment, operation and management, Ohoba PHC, the only one in a community of hundreds of thousands of people used to be the pride of the community owing to the structures and facilities in place at the time.
During the glory days, the PHC had quality personnel and rendered quality services to patients. The quality of drugs dispensed at the time was nothing less than standard; and the confidence patients had coming there for any medical attention was high. With a spacious hall of about 20 bed spaces- one bed for one patient and one for her assistant, with good cabinet for storing food items and other belongings of the patients, there was much comfort.
There were blocks for different sections of the health centre. Adjacent to the hall was the consulting room and the theatre. At the other end was a store where apparatuses and other important items were kept. There was the dispensary unit fully stocked with drugs. There were quarters for the chief dispenser, the midwives and nurses. There were toilets and bathrooms as well as kitchens for patients.
The PHC used to have security personnel who worked on shift basis to maintain round the clock security in the centre. Water was never a problem as there was manual water pump in the compound. Fruit trees of different kinds were planted around the centre for patients, staff and visitors’ enjoyment. Sanitary was maintained as there were cleaners on ground who keep the environment neat and clean.
Then people from within and outside thronged the PHC for quality healthcare. “People saw the health centre as a sure place to go”, Mrs. Angela Anyanwu, a member of the community revealed to THISDAY. Reminiscing on the comfort at the Ohoba Primary Health Centre in the past, Anyanwu said in those days, it was an edge over others for a husband to take her pregnant wife to the centre for delivery. “You could see the joy and the excitement that followed visiting the centre and being attended to by its pretty, efficient and competent midwives and nurses,” she said.
Unfortunately, what used to be the pride of the community has been relegated to house of goats due to the neglect of the centre by successive governments in the state. With the PHC currently in deplorable state, members of the community have resorted to using Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) as the only affordable option available to them.
Once a busy place, the center no longer feels the usual inflow of people because no one wants to go close to the centre let alone seek medical care there. What came out of the effort of the community is now likened to horrible scenes in nightmares and films.
Today, entering Ohoba Health Centre and Maternity, one is greeted with goats of various species with dungs littered all over the premises. From leaking roofs to broken walls, outdated-facilities, dearth of personnel, unavailability of drugs, down to lack of security, the centre has become a death trap and a source of concern.
THISDAY’s investigation revealed that the centre at the moment cannot boast of four bed spaces as the main hall is no longer useable. Baring her mind on the horrible state of the PHC, Assistant Health Sister, Ohoba Primary Health Centre, Mrs. Annunciata Ijeomah, said they were using only two rooms for their operations- the dispensary office because the main hall has long dilapidated.
“In these two rooms we have only three beds. So if patients are more than three some will spread mat or wrapper on the floor and lie on it. Here we don’t have good place for our patients, especially pregnant women coming for delivery. We don’t have toilet here- the latrines and bathrooms that were being used before have all collapsed. Our patients go to the bush to poo-poo. When they want to bathe or urinate they go to that makeshift bathroom behind the dispensary,” Ijeomah told THISDAY.
According to her, people have ceased coming to the centre because of the level of despair there. She said: “Even when government posts nurses here they will not come. We no longer received drugs the way we are supposed to. Sometimes we have to use our own money to buy drugs. The staff quarter is so bad. During rainy reason we start running up and down because the roofs are all leaking. So my brother that is what we are passing through here,” she added.
She explained that due to the present state of the centre, organisations that intended bringing free medical services to them would divert to churches citing its poor state as reason for leaving. She said that has been affecting the community adversely. Ijeoma also revealed that they had written to the state government time without number for them to come and do something about the centre but had not seen any response from them.
A member of the community and nursing mother, Mrs. Chioma Amadi, wondered why government has decided to abandon the only health centre in the community leaving the people, especially the poor women and children to suffer. “Each time I see this health centre, I feel like laying curses on the government. How can they be this wicked? Amadi said in anger.
“I can never advise anyone related to me to go there for any medical attention. If you go there you can’t even see any patient because nobody wants to risks her life. How many nurses can you find there? Where are you going to stay when you go there? Do they have common paracetamol to give you? The health centre has already collapsed and government officials are there watching,” she noted.
When asked where she gave birth to the baby she was carrying, Amadi said she went to a private hospital in the community where she was billed huge amount of money for her delivery.“Had it been that our health centre was working, why I would go to a private hospital?” she retorted. One now wonders what would be the fate of the indigent women and children in the community who cannot afford to seek medical care in private hospitals like Amadi.
Another member of the community, Mr. Mike Onuoha, while speaking to THISDAY, queried why past and present governments in the state have refused to hear their cry concerning the PHC in the community. According to him, during elections “the community becomes a political mecca that must be visited by those jostling for power right from the local government to the state level but when they win they desert the tree they perched on like birds.
“The present government promised us heaven and earth during the election. But now which of those promises have they fulfilled. They promised us quality and affordable healthcare delivery. But look at our health centre. Our women can no longer go there. Our children can no longer go there for medical treatment. We’ve been complaining to them but they would never respond to our complaint,” Onuoha said.
THISDAY’s investigation revealed that if urgent steps are not taken by government to address the deplorable of the health centre, the place will soon shut down completely.