By Chioma Obinna
Stakeholders last week in Lagos deliberated on effective ways to revitalise the country’s primary healthcare centres, saying it goes beyond refurbishing of old buildings and buying new equipment. The discussions by the stakeholders at a meeting of the South West Policy Dialogue under the aegis of a project titled “Reinvestment: Increasing Legislative Oversight on Primary Health Care in Nigeria”in Lagos was sparked off by their recent sitevisits to Power Line Primary Health Care centre and SoretireOrile-Agege Primary Health Care centreall in Agege Local Government Area, Lagos state. The site visits provoked critical discussions towards harnessing potential for revitalising Primary Health Care to inform appropriate legislative decisions and policy directions for the country.
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At the meeting organsed in Lagos by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC, the stakeholders comprising members of the house of assembly, government officials and academia among others deliberated on various thematic issues such as “the Role of Relevant Legislative Committees in Actualising the Basic Health Care Package, PHC Revitalisation in the 8th Assembly: The Legislative Gaps and Opportunities, and Understanding Minimum standards for Primary Health Care in Nigeria.
In his submission, the Lagos Commissioner for Health, Prof Akin Abayomi who was represented by the Permanent Secretary of Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Dr. TayoLawal, said plans are underway to restructure health care at the primary level in order to restore public confidence.
Abayomi said that funding and human inadequacies are a major challenges facing health care in Nigeria.
“Lagos state has like 360 primary healthcare centres, the role of maintaining and managing these centres, is very critical.”
Speaking, the Programme Manager For Health, CISLAC, ChiomaKanu said the essence of the retreat was for the Legislative members to start thinking about how they can actually move the health sector forward from where it is. “The site visits is for our law makers to come and see what these PHC’s look like and make serious commitment to putting things in place. At least let us have some primary healthcare centres if not all that are up to the minimum standard of primary health care.”
Kanu said two regions among the six geopolitical zones in Nigeria have been visited that is the South-east and south-south and now the south-west part.
“We still have North-east, North central and North West; normally we take these law makers to some primary health care facilities so they can have a feel of what the places look like so that they will be able to perform their oversight function in the relevant department and ministries with the hope to raise the standard of primary health
care in Nigeria”On his part, the Deputy Chairman, House Committee on said the minimum standard for primary healthcare in Nigeria which has been in existence was revised some time in 2006 but a number of people are not aware of it. He explained that the programme was aimed at sensitizing especially the legislative arm of government to see the need for a functional primary health care was developed and now that we are talking about revitalizing health care.
“it is not rocket science. If the political will is there, it will not be a difficult thing to do. Revitalizing the primary healthcare, a lot of things are coming on board, state is signing, funds are being made available some states are going into partnership and they are preparing analysis. Some States are even talking about the contributory state health care financing. These are other sources of income and with the federal declaration of minimum of 15 percent of the annual budget to be allocated to health, it will go a long way.”
He added that primary health care in Nigeria was less than what is expected even for the downtrodden and if everyone is aware that PHC is not just for the poor, they would start accessing it before going to the higher levels of care.