By SOLA OGUNDIPE
The Primary Healthcare Centre, PHC, in Ward G, Ojokoro Local Council Development Area, Ajegunle – Alakuko, Ilo, in Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area of Lagos State, is an eyesore.
Since 2001, when it was constructed by the Federal Government and opened for public use alongside five others, the Ajegunle PHC has not undergone any form of infrastructural rehabilitation, staff rationalisation or refurbishment of equipment.
The Centre which was meant to care for child delivery and management of other health complications and primarily paediatric related issues, is today a shadow of its self.
Facts show that the Federal government aimed to utilise the facility to bring primary health services closer to the grassroots, as mooted and championed by former Minister for Health, Late Professor Olikoye Ransome Kuti. But, 12 years down the line, the dream of that goal has been truncated.
Good Health Weekly investigations revealed that although the Centre was built by the Federal government, it was handed over to the Lagos state government several years ago, before the State, in turn, passed it to the local government and then down to the community.
It was gathered that previous administrations did not make adequate effort to intercede on behalf of the ailing Centre,and it is now grossly under-utilised and currently bogged down by plethora of administrative and infrastructural problems and is constituting serious threat to the wellbeing of residents of the area.
More findings show that there are just four bonafide staff at the Centre who habitually report late for work or fail to show up at all. Patients at the Centre confirm there is usually no doctor on call at any time of the day, and the only qualified and experienced staff is the Head of the nursing unit. Other staff are ad-hoc staff, privately recruited or hospital-trained nurses and’ health workers.
Good Health Weekly discovered that in view of the chronic shortage of qualified medical staff, it is not uncommon for cleaners and sweepers to take up the task of administering drugs and even injections to children. The Centre, which, normally, should run 24 hours daily, remains open for just a few hours and is idle most of the day.
As a result, patients who turn up for treatment and other services wait endlessly for attention. Findings showed that it is at least a decade ago that the delivery of any baby was recorded there. No drugs or medical consumables of any sort are being provided. Everything is bought or brought by the patient
A visit to the Centre on one of the two weekly post-antenatal clinic days, reveals a structure wearing a forlorn look of dilapidation, decrepitation, and desolation. There is dirt and unkempt everywhere. The surroundings, including the road leading up to the premises is overgrown with weeds.
Signs of farming are obvious within the open vast of land but a collapsed long section of the perimeter wall remains unfixed.
The building itself, which at inception, was adequately equipped with modem hospital equipment, is now an empty carcass – its valuable stock of equipment either looted, damaged or obsolete.
The reception is in shambles, the waiting room in disarray and unbefitting of a health institution. There are huge cracks on the walls, rodents run about freely, and the electrical fittings a potential hazard.
There is no running water. Taps are dry because the only borehole on the premises has long stopped functioning. With no reliable source of water, patients resort to purchasing and utilising packaged water (pure water) sachets.
On such day, it is commonplace to observe mothers improvising with packaged water sachets to step down their children’s high body temperatures before injections can be administered. Expectedly, the premises is littered with empty packaged water sachets.
The septic tank (soak-away) is collapsed and toilet facilities are severly deplorable. In so many other ways is the degree of rot phenomenal.
Patients confirm that drugs are never available because there is no straight forward and committed administrative mechanism for purchasing and distributing drugs at the Centre. It was gathered that nurses ont only dispense, but also sell drugs.
They complain of an arrangement through which the nurses, cleaners and other staff including members of a caretaker committee monitorng the Centre, take advantage of these lapses, to purchase drugs on private basis and resell to patients.
Efforts to get the Chairman, Ifako-Ijaiye Local Government Area to comment on the issue were unfruitful as he could not be reached. Good Health Weekly also attempted to speak to the Chairman, Ojokoro LCDA, Alhaji Amusat Azeez but he was said to have travelled abroad.
However, in a reaction to the development, the 2nd Vice Chairman, Ojokoro Joint CDA, Chief Olufemi Olusola Davies, gave a graphic picture of the challenge faced by the Centre.
“The Local Government has abandoned the PHC, and pushed its problems to Ojokoro CDC to cope with,” he remarked in a telephone interview.
“When I came on as the 2nd Vice Chairman of the LCDA, the PHC being in my Ward, I organised people from different CDAs to join me to ensure that we bring the PHC back on track. I organised and reconstituted another committee to take charge but since that was done , we have not really started, mainly because we need funds to go on.
“We are not getting these funds from the LGA. I asked the entire CDC including the 92 CDAs to help out, we are trying to bring the attention of the state government.
In his narration, Davies recalled that in January 2012, when Governor Babatunde Fashola visited the LGA, during the cross-border campaign against polio between Lagos and Ogun state, he was there andI mentioned the condition of the PHC to the Governor.
“The Governor replied just once. I was expecting something would have been done but nothing has been done . As Chairman, if I can get support from the state government, I will put things right,” he attested.
Also in a chat, Omo-Oba Ademola Odusote, a concerned member of the committee, lamented the development. “We have this edifice that has been lying fallow since 2003. We were elected by the commubity to look after the Centre.
“We went there and found that the place was rotten. We wrote to the Local Government Council. We went around, identified the problems and made recommendations on what is to be done, but till today, no response on the request about the state of the PHC has been obtained.”
Also speaking, another concerned party, Mr. Adeyemi Adesina, Chairman, Akinde/Karan, CDA, observes that “there only appears to be a semblance of activity there because of the two days of post-natal care clinics held weekly.
“The place is in shambles, without water or toilets. devoid of alll structure of a PHC of that standard.We are calling attention of those in charge to come to the rescue of the people, he remarked.”
Residents of Ward G, Ojokoro LCDA, are still baffled by the deplorable condition of their PHC. Already, there are doubts about the safety and reliability of diagnoses and treatments carried out at the Centre owing to the aforementioned issues.
Even as they now depend on primary health facilities at Oke-Odo, and private hospitals in adjoining communities in neighbouring Ogun State their hope and expectation is for the authorities to step in and take urgent and decisve action to turn its fortunes around for the better.
They want the state and Federal governments to come to terms over the Centre, for the sake of the people.
Even as a big question mark lies over an annual allocation of N2 million that is accruable to the PHC since 2003 and no one appears to be in the know the status of the allocation.
Part of their expectation is that the LGA should repair the road to the health Centre and provide adequate and qualified staff such as Youth Corper doctors in order to give the community something to show for its travails.
It was gathered that trouble began after the creation of Ojokoro LCDA,when some miscreants vandalised the facilities.
They also want the Federal Ministry of Health to come up with clear-cut and straight forward guideline for the running and maintenance of the Centre, urgently rehabilitate it supply with modern-day equipment and hand it over to a new management committee.
The Federal Ministry of Health should also investigate the allegations of sharp practices with a view to prosecuting those found culpable mismanagement of funds meant for the Centre and ensure that in future, funds are disbursed regularly to the Centre and effectively utilised and closely monitored.