Martins Ifijeh writes on the update of some Primary Healthcare Centres in Lagos spotted months ago by THISDAY for suboptimal capacities to their host communities
Oko-Oba Primary Health Centre (PHC) in Ibeju-Lekki Local Government Area of Lagos, months ago, could be termed an abandoned building where reptiles and other animals lurk. It was home to goats, fowls and creepy animals, instead of humans.
Grasses had overtaken the isolated building meant to provide healthcare for about 550,000 residents of several communities in Epe area, including Ojaoko-Oba, Tagbati, Oluwogbe, Ajigbinwa, Aromi, Arakpagi, Oriba, Maire, Onikokan, Onijigba and Alaoufun.
Residents of these communities had lost faith in the facility few months after its inauguration when they discovered it was no longer meeting their needs. Their pregnant women were accessing healthcare either with traditional birth attendants around them or would have to be driven on a motor cycle on a two hour journey to Epe main town for healthcare. This, of course increased maternal and child mortality in the communities.
But after THISDAY visited and listened to stories of residents of the area, in addition to other PHCs visited (Baruwa PHC in Ipaja, Akinyele PHC in Abesan Estate, and Oke-Eletu PHC in Ikorodu) a report was done to bring the plight of the residents to limelight, prompting the state government to say it would work on the facilities in addition to other PHCs it said were currently being renovated and equipped at the time.
As a follow up, THISDAY visited three of the facilities few weeks ago to know if their conditions have improved, or whether the promise made by the government for their renovation and equipping were kept.
The recent visit to Oko-Oba PHC suggests the facility has undergone a facelift, while members of the communities are said to be patronising the centre. The communities do not have private clinics as a form of alternative.
Although THISDAY did not meet the nurse in charge of the PHC when it visited on a Thursday morning, feelers from members of the communities suggest health workers come between Mondays and Wednesdays weekly to attend to patients, while the nurse in charge is said to spend her Thursdays and Fridays at Bogije Local Government secretariat where she also work in the health centre there.
According to a resident, Kemi Osunkemi, the PHC has been active for some months now, adding that deliveries, immunisations and general treatment were being done in the facility by the nurse and other health workers who come three times weekly.
But what happens when people need healthcare between Thursdays and Sundays? She said: “One of the problems we have is the road. Cars do not enter these communities and transportation is expensive. If a bike wants to carry you from the road up to any community here, the minimum you will pay is N500. No health worker spend N1,000 everyday to come to work here seven times a week. If government do our roads, I know health workers will be coming everyday, because we notice now they are very eager to work, unlike before.
“But another thing is, we are even grateful that we see them at all in some days of the week, because if you had come here last year, you will know no single person uses that PHC. Now that it’s being used, even if its for three days, we believe it’s a good start,” she added.
According to her, the health workers sometimes go round communities to distribute mosquito nets and then, “they sometimes invite us to bring our children for immunisation. During vaccination exercise, the facility is always filled to the brim.”
She, however complained that the last time she went to the centre, which was few days before this interview, she noticed the generator was no longer working, as the workers complained it was having fuel pump issue. Oko-oba PHC is still yet to be connected to electricity grid.
THISDAY met a man in the PHC, Stephen Nose, also known as Baba Beji, who said he was hired to cultivate crops at the back of the building, an idea he said was geared towards making sure there was no longer bushes around the centre. “Whenever I’m working in the farm, I always make sure little grasses growing around the PHC are also removed,” he said.
A bike man, who took this reporter to the facility said he brought his wife few months ago to the facility for delivery, an act he said he would not have done last year when the place was under lock and key. “When I brought my wife, she gave birth here and they gave us drugs,” he added.
A visit to Baruwa PHC also suggests a restructuring was done in the facility, which a few months ago was deserted by members of the communities around it. Two nurses and other health workers were seen attending to patients.
A resident, Mrs. Foluke Alao who spoke to THISDAY said the centre has come back to its past glory, adding that she now takes her children there for healthcare.
“It was in that facility I gave birth to my daughters. But my last child (a son) was delivered in Ayobo PHC because this one was no longer functioning well. They lacked drugs and even nurses. Then when you come, the place will always be locked. Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has decided to favour us this time. People can now work into the centre and get treated. During immunisation, this place is always full,” she added.
Asked if she will be willing to use the facility now if she was to give birth, Foluke answered in the affirmative. “In fact, there was a day my son had an injury from one of his rough plays, I rushed him here and they attended to him well. He was also given drugs,” she added.
A nurse who spoke to THISDAY but did not give her name, said they get timely delivery of drugs and other materials needed to make the place running. “We are also experiencing an increase in people accessing this facility.” She dared the reporter to bring his wife for ante natal, as a trial will convince him.
When THISDAY visited Akinyele PHC, it did not see any structural change to the old building, but activities in the centre had increased. A couple, Mr. and Mrs. Anyanwu, whose new baby had just been attended to, said since four months now they have been using the facility without hassles, but complained that they are mostly referred to get drugs outside the centre.
While analysis of the recent visit and the one done months ago by THISDAY showed a significant improvement in the conditions of the facilities, and by extension, health of the residents, there still exist gaps needing attention.
For instance, in Oko-Oba PHC where healthcare could be accessible only thrice a week, what then happens to the remaining four days, what if there is a health emergency? What if a woman is in labour? What if there is an accident needing a first aid? What if there is a snake bite and the person urgently needs help? Who would answer these questions between Thursdays and Sundays when the health facility is under lock and key?
Efforts to interview the Special Adviser to Lagos Governor on PHC, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga proved abortive, as the Public Affairs Department of the Lagos State Ministry of Health only called to know what the purpose of the interview was, with a promise to relay it to Dr. Onanuga and get back to this reporter. They never got back.