By Abujah Racheal
Nigeria Health Watch (NHW) says innovative community accountability mechanisms is necessary to ensure quality Primary Health Care (PHC) delivery in the country.
Dr Kemisola Agbaoye, Director of Programmes, NHW, said this on Monday in Suleja, Niger, at the Primary Healthcare Nutrition Policy Dialogue.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dialogue was organised by NHW.
Its theme is “strengthening primary healthcare demand in Nigeria to improve community access to quality healthcare”.
NHW said that the dialogue aimed to address and strengthen the demand for primary healthcare services in the country.
It said the dialogue would reflect the importance of enhancing the healthcare system’s responsiveness to the needs of the local communities and improving the accessibility and quality of healthcare services.
Agbaoye said Primary Health Care was people’s first point of contact with the health care system and a cornerstone for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country.
She lamented that not all PHCs in the country had the standard requirements to provide quality health care to people, which made PHC accountability essential.
She shed light on the pressing issues that the PHCs were confronting, ultimately jeopardising the delivery of quality healthcare to millions of Nigerians.
She said the country had over 34,000 PHCs, but regrettably, only 20 per cent of them were operational.
“Through National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the Federal Government has introduced policies to improve PHCs in the country, to ensure at least one functional PHC per ward in Nigeria.
“Over the years, Nigeria Health Watch has supported the Federal Ministry of Health and Nigeria Governors Forum for improved PHC services for all Nigerians.
“We explore various options such as Policy Dialogue and Community Health Watch, where community members report their experience accessing PHC services,” she explained.
Dr Ibrahim Ahmed Dangana, Executive Director, Niger State Primary Health Care Development Agency (NSPHCDA), called for strengthening community accountability mechanisms for quality primary healthcare in the country.
Dangana who was represented by Dr Inuwa Junaidu, emphasised the importance of community accountability in improving primary healthcare services.
The executive director acknowledged the progress made in PHC indicators but stressed the need for further improvements to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of good health and well-being for all by 2030.
“The address highlighted the role of innovative platforms such as community maternal, perinatal, and child death surveillance review committees in hearing the voices of healthcare workers and stakeholders at the community level,” he said.
He praised the culture of openness to innovations in Niger State and emphasised the importance of empowering and mobilising communities to become active agents of change in demanding quality services and championing healthy lifestyles.
He called for consistent commitment, collaboration and unwavering determination in building a legacy of accessible, equitable and quality primary healthcare in the state.
During a panel discussion on increasing community demand for quality PHC services, Mrs Aisha Ahmed, Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) Coordinator, Niger State, said the state was part of the three that the Federal Government used to pilot the implementation of BHCPF in the country.
Ahmed said that since the implementation of BHCPF, the state had seen a lot of improvements in the healthcare facilities, enabling the people of Niger to access quality care.
“Through the BHCPF, Niger State has ensured we have essential drugs and manpower. However, our main challenge is ensuring that skilled workers sent to communities stay and work in those communities,” she said.
She said that one of the key groups the state used to get health information for better quality service was the Ward Development Committees because they represented community voices.
In Niger, it is estimated that one in every 95 women dies during pregnancy and childbirth.
High attrition rates of skilled midwives, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas, have led to midwives shortages, compromising the quality of care provided to pregnant women and newborns.
Based on insights from the “Why Are Women Dying While Giving Birth In Nigeria” report, one of the reasons for maternal deaths is the poor distribution of healthcare workers in the state.
Most health workers prefer to work within the state capital rather than in the rural communities where there is a significant shortage of midwives.
According to retention conducted in February 2023, Niger is committed to ensuring the recruitment of over 500 nurses and midwives through the state’s BHCPF, GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance and the Expanded Midwives Service Scheme (eMSS).