As a reaction to the recently published article in THISDAY, titled ‘How Rot in Lagos PHCs Fuel Maternal and Newborn Deaths’ the Special Adviser to Lagos State Governor, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga, has stated that the remaining Primary Health Centres (PHCs) in the state still needing some forms of intervention for optimal productivity will be fixed within the shortest time possible.
He said already, about a billion naira has been earmarked by the state government for renovating and equipping the suboptimal PHCs among the 288 primary health facilities in the state, adding that 34 of such PHCs have benefitted from the fund and that efforts were geared towards putting others in shape as soon as possible.
“Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is very keen on the health of Lagosians, hence we have put very stringent measures on ground to tackle lapses in all healthcare facilities in the State from infrastructures to human resources, but for PHCs requiring interventions, which fall within the ones mentioned in the THISDAY publication, efforts are ongoing to address them one after the other. 34 of such PHCs have been transformed already, and soon, others will get the same lift,” he said.
While acknowledging that the story was a wake-up call for the government and that the reporter could be considered a partner for sensitising the team on the few areas needing interventions, he said majority of the PHCs in the state were working at optimal levels, and that apart from drugs, infrastructural and human resources, most of the facilities were operating 24-hour services in order to make healthcare more accessible to community members, irrespective of what time of the day or night they access the facility.
“What I found out from the story is that the reporter is assisting us. He is sensitising us to do more work than we have been doing. The places reported will be touched. It is already in line with our plans for renovating and equipping some PHCs in the State.”
Reacting to a part of the story which noted that workers of Baruwa PHC had a clue that the monitoring team from the office of the Special Adviser on PHC were coming to their centre, Onanuga said he found that part difficult to believe as he only decides which PHC to be visited solely, and hence it could not have been possible that certain PHCs would have a head up that their facilities would be inspected by the monitoring team.
“I find it difficult to believe that people know when and where we are coming, because we have made it so secretive, such that wherever we are going to is always unannounced. It is only at the time we are going out that I direct where we are going, so for people to say they knew we are coming there, I find it difficult to believe, but again, that is something the reporter has pointed out, which is extremely unusual because we don’t tell anybody where we are going. And it’s a good thing that it has happened like that, so what is required is that we are going to tighten up our arrangements, we are going to be more secretive than before, such that there will not be room for centres to prepare on ground for our coming.”
The SSA said since the monitoring, evaluation and the advocacy team started moving from one PHC to another in January, there has been tremendous and positive results. “A lot of changes like attitude of our workers to work have changed. Absenteeism has reduced drastically. Negative attitude to work has also gone down, and decent work has been promoted through the continuous, but random and unannounced visits to these centres.
“We pay unscheduled visits to different PHCs every week and in places where we discover that their workers are absent or not up and doing, we discipline them as appropriate.”
On the concern over why Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) are given prominence in the state by community members and even the stakeholders in the state, Onanuga said TBAs were partners in progress to the state for health service delivery.
“We train these TBAs as often as possible and then award them certificates. Through these trainings, they become very knowledgeable on how best to handle deliveries, ante natal, among others. And they also know their limits, they know when to refer, as well as when to identify complications. In cases that are beyond them, they immediately refer such cases to the primary health facilities nearest to them. So we are partners in progress and we can’t do without them.
“If you look at the cultural background of our people, so many of them still believe they must visit the TBA. So what we are doing as a government is to preach to them on the importance of health, but we cannot tell them not to go there. Even if we do, they will still go there because they have their beliefs in them and that is why we have decided to work with the TBAs, and they are trained on new intervention techniques. We make sure they are updated with new trends in the service delivery.
“Just recently, we trained 400 of such TBAs and the Governor himself was on ground to present certificates to those who attended. So we can’t do without them, the law allows it and they also render services. The only thing is that we will continue to train them, re-involve them, encourage them, and then punish the quacks among them,” Onanuga said.
On why some PHC workers were not in the various duties which the previously published story pointed out, Onanuga read the riot act to all PHC workers in the state. According to him, any PHC worker not on duty as at when due shall be dealt with according to the civil service rule.
“All health workers in the state are motivated to work because every 23rd they are paid their salaries, so they have no excuse not to go to work. Anyone caught during any of our monitoring will have him or herself to blame. No state in the country motivates workers like Lagos State,” he said.
With the promise by the SSA that the identified PHCs in the said publication will be given speedy attention, THISDAY investigations will also inform Nigerians on the new developments in the PHCs, which are the Baruwa PHC in Ipaja, Oko-Oba PHC in Epe, Akinyele PHC in Abesan and Oriba PHC in Epe area of the state.