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SPECIAL REPORT: Ogun Primary Health Centres Remain in Shambles During Pandemic Period

“This pandemic period is going to be a hard time for some of our staff, especially the ward attendants who head some health facilities in some parts of the local government health centres. I just pray the outbreak doesn’t get out of hand because in my local government we were only given hand sanitizers as a measure to protect ourselves during this COVID-19,” a health worker in one of the Primary Health Centres in Ogun State expresses her worries to the reporter.

Primary Health Care forms an integral part of the country’s health system and it is the first level of contact of individuals, the family, and the community with the Nigerian health system.

“Being the grass-root health facility, most patients are closer to us than the secondary health facilities.

“Even the training we had at the local government level, we were only given a piece of advice on how to remain safe during this period. Hence, some things should be put in place because most Primary Health Workers lack the basic knowledge on how to prevent themselves during this COVID-19  period not to talk of the patients,” the health worker narrated further.

The Primary Health Care initiative was established in (1988) for the improvement of grassroots and community health care. Its creation was aimed at ensuring that sustainable, adequate health care is made affordable to the people irrespective of their places of abode in the state.

Unfortunately, Ogun state Primary Health Centers are on the verge of extinction with many of them not functioning, while others are dilapidated due to lack of human power and negligence.

It would be recalled that on 27th February 2020, the first COVID-19 case in the country reportedly visited a cement factory in the Ewekoro local government area of Ogun state.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health workers are at the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak response and as such are exposed to hazards that put them at risk of infection. In this crucial period of a pandemic, it is important that necessary measures be taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

How prepared are PHCs to respond to the pandemic?

A visit by this reporter to some of the health centres in some local government areas which include: Odeda, Sagamu, Obafemi-Owode North, Abeokuta south and Abeokuta north revealed that PHCs in these areas are inadequately prepared. Some of the health facilities have their facility heads as ward attendants often disguising as nurses and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW).

It was observed that these ward attendants administered treatments based on the knowledge they have gained from professional health workers. Findings revealed that while some of these facilities are equipped, others like Boodo PHC, Ijeja PHC, Adehun PHC lack basic equipment and instruments needed in PHC.

The reporter observed that health workers in the PHC visited had their face masks on.  Some PHCs were also observed to have hand wash alongside hand sanitizers as measures to curb the spread of COVID-19.

During private interviews with some of the health workers, most of them shared their concern over the preparedness of their centres. They also admit that they personally do not feel armed with the skills required to fight COVID-19 in the state.

Any special training organised to curb the pandemic?

The interview revealed that most health workers in the Primary Health Centers in Ogun state were not trained on how appropriate ways of handling the infectious disease.

Though they admit that they were given hand sanitizers and face masks made from Ankara fabrics, they insist they didn’t receive any in-depth training aside social media awareness and the awareness created by the local government Doctors. This, unlike the kind of training given to PHC practitioners handling Polio and measles vaccine exercises.

According to a health worker who pleaded anonymity said: ”we at Obafemi-Owode L/G were being lectured by the local government doctor on coronavirus and later we were given hand sanitizers only.

“Considering the number of patients we attend to on a daily basis, the hand sanitizers have almost been exhausted.”

Patients and their fate

Most times, patients are delayed due to lack of adequate manpower in the facilities. Ideally, a facility should comprise of a Doctor, Nurse, Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) and ward attendants. It was, however, observed that most health facilities have either one or two domestic workers to oversee a facility with only one health worker. Patients, therefore, resort to patronizing patent stores available in their areas.

Mostly, the rural and urban dwellers patronize these facilities as billings are affordable.

Residents reactions

Our reporter spoke with some of the residents in the state on how to improve the Primary  Health Care and how to curb the disease from spreading. Most people claimed that the health facilities are not well equipped and other state health sectors are not affordable compare to the primary health facilities.

A 35-year-old farmer, Akanbi Yusuf told the reporter that: the disease might continue to spread. “Government should try to improve the state primary health facilities. In case we don’t know that most of the rural dwellers are mostly the ones patronizing these health facilities but if these facilities are not well equipped how do you expect proper health care from them?

A civil servant who identified himself as Adenuga Nurudeen said, the government should do more work on the primary health centre.

“Though most of them are efficient they still need some training to renew their knowledge most especially during this pandemic period,” he added.

A resident of Ajaka area of Sagamu said, “The health centres are often congested compare to normal hospital settings. The people in charge should please look into it. We are even scared of going to the clinic during this coronavirus period because we have heard all sorts on the radio.”

Mr Saliu Ahmodu, a resident of Ogunmakin told this reporter that the primary health centre in Ogunmakin has been abandoned but his greater fear is that the state and Oyo state shares the same border as both states are into one another.

He disclosed that despite the lockdown most of the Oyo state residents still walk into Ogun state.

“Health workers are trying but the government should open the abandoned Primary health centres in the community.

Coronavirus will continue to multiply if the residents in the neighbouring state keep coming to our community most especially during the free days given to us by the state government. They should not infect us,” he said.

It is pertinent to note that Ogun state shares a boundary with Oyo state. The boundary is located at Ogunmakin Otesile area of Obafemi Owode Local government, Ogun state. This is the only boundary that separates Ogun state from Oyo state. In spite of this, the residents of both states still share things in common.

In view of this, they share the same market square where buying and selling often take place. The popular OGUNMAKIN market unites these people. This act might expose residents to contagious diseases.

Reactions from health workers

A health officer in one of the PHCs confiding in the reporter disclosed that: They now have low patronage in the Facility reason being that they believe most hospitals have been infected which may put them at a high risk of contracting the diseases.

“We now have low patronage reason been that most rural dwellers who patronize our health facility have stopped coming due to lack of understanding of what the diseases are about. Most residents end up opting for treatments in church-owned clinics comparing their efficiency based on service rendered.

It is important for the Ogun state government to rise up and address the dilapidated state of the PHCs in the state. The health of a large member of society depends on it. The facilities are in need more manpower and health equipment. Again, due to the spread of the deadly disease, the government should endeavour to provide necessary tools that are needed for the protection of health workers in the PHCs.

Most of the workers are convinced that in-depth training on COVID-19 would be an added advantage.

What government has done so far

It would be recalled that the state governor addressed newsmen at his private residence at Iperu-Remo stating that the three Senatorial Districts of the state have recorded at least one case of coronavirus.

“The fight against coronavirus is a relentless one and the reality of it stares us in the face with increasing figures of the number of positives cases and death globally and even on our shore.

“In addition, the government is also establishing drive-through testing facilities, all in an effort to test as many as possible so as to truly confirm that numbers of positive cases we have are a true reflection of the situation in our state,” the governor was quoted as reported by Business Day.

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