Primary Health Care Centres remain some of the basic health facilities relevant to meeting the health needs of communities, both in the FCT and Nigeria as a whole. However, the challenges of energy and limited power supply have continued to hinder efficient service deliveries and running of various health facilities as is the case at the Dutse Health Centre. Ruth Tene Natsa was there for LEADERSHIP Friday.
Dutse Health Clinic is a primary health centre, located few kilometers behind the ever busy Dutse Alhaji market. It has a gated fence and looks like a regular public service clinic, considering the ever busy traffic moving in and out, particular on maternity days, which fall, every Tuesday/Wednesday. A first look at the facility, reveals a kiosk inside the fenced clinic, a dirty pool of water in front and several solar panels mounted on the roof of the clinic, which house several units including family planning, immunisation, laboratory, pharmacy/ consulting as well as the antenatal. The clinic runs on electricity, supplied by the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) and is supported by the use of a standby generator and Solar panels supplied by Hammer connect, which allows the use of energy saving bulbs For first timers, the clinic is big, for a primary health centre, it has a large waiting room, with some health officials directing patients and a solar operated refrigerator for storage of vaccines as well various other medical equipment. Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP Friday, Officer in charge of Dutse Primary Health Care, Matron Lariyatu, said while lack of adequate power supply has not affected the service delivery of the centre, it has affected the effectiveness of the facility as they do all they can to ensure that power is supplied either through the Abuja Electricity Distribution Company (AEDC) their 1.5 KVA generator, or through the use of their solar panels. She states that it cost the facility not less than five thousand naira (N5K)) weekly to recharge their meter (approximately 20k monthly). Lamenting that after several efforts to get the AEDC to check the speed of the meter, which she considered quite high, she was told that the primary health facility runs on a commercial line and as such, nothing can be done about the high cost. She recalled that in the past, they enjoyed very good services from the solar power supplied the clinic by Hammer connect, but had to revert to the AEDC after the suppliers withdrew their machine over the failure of the FCTA to provide the counterpart funding, which was agreed on, to run the panels.
”So, Hammer connect came and removed their machine, leaving some of the solar panels”. As it is, the Solar panels are connected to the labour room and a few other places and we use energy saving bulbs (5mgwts) to ensure the facility is lit, when there is no available power. We do not use high consumption bulbs The matron assured that even with the challenges of power to the facility, services to patients are not affected. “Because we do all we can to ensure that we buy fuel for the 1.5 KVA generator we have and we still have the Hammer connect solar panels that we use for the low energy saving bulbs. Patients are served well, it is only the facility that bears the brunt”. The Solar energy we have, currently supplies power to the labour room, pharmacy and nursing station, even though we can only use the energy saving bulbs. Speaking on challenges facing the facility she lamented that top of them all is the energy, followed by the N-Power staff sent to them by government. She recalled that the federal government supported the facility with 11 N-Power beneficiaries, however, not all of them have reported. She urged that when beneficiaries are being considered, their availability for the programme should be paramount, particularly, the fact that they may or may not be available for service. Some of them are in school while some claim to be working at other places, she said. “In fact, one of them reported and said she is running her Master’s programme and will not be able to resume till January 2019. I refused accepting her and told her to resume when she is ready with her letter.
“For me that is corruption, which is what this administration is fighting against. How can you bring a letter in August when you are supposed to resume and yet you will not resume till January and yet you expect to be paid for the months you are not working, that is unacceptable. “Sadly, we have several health workers/volunteers who had committed themselves to rendering free services to this clinic and I encouraged them to enter for the N-Power programme and yet, none of them was picked. Community health workers and even doctors I know applied, but they were not picked. I will be very happy to employ the current volunteer staff if they will be taken.” A volunteer staff, who is also retired medical personnel, spoke with LEADERSHIP Friday. Mallam Mohammed (real name withheld) said the major challenge here is that most of our patients lack money. 65 per cent of our patients are common people who do not have money even for their most basic needs. “In the past, drugs and services were given free to our patients, but presently, due to the peculiar challenges of our nation, they pay little amounts. I recall during the time of Dr Ransome Kuti, Primary Centres like ours were given six trucks of about 200,000 drugs to resolve it, they used to be free, until everything changed and all you hear is, ‘everything is out of stock” The volunteer staff, who said he sees about 30 patients daily, lamented that the challenges of most of the patients is lack of money. When patients do not have money, he assured that the staff do their best to support patients who can not afford to pay for their drugs. Also speaking, a recorder with the clinic, Hajia Rabi Suleiman, said the clinic attends to between 2025 patients daily lamenting that the clinic is challenged by lack of working materials.
“For emergencies such as accidents or high blood pressure (BP), we normally observe a patient for 24 hours and afterwards, treat or refer them to more efficient hospitals. We have portable water which is powered by the energy we use in the clinic. This means when there is no light, there will be no water and we will have to resort to buying water from the water truck pusher (mairuwa). As to light supply, the recorder said, we get light three to four times a week and have to depend on solar and generators on other days. A dental patient and a beneficiary of the Dutse Health Centre services, Chidinma Goodness Njoku, said she was impressed by the services rendered to her at the clinic, even though it was her first time of going to the clinic. In her words, “I was on my way to Kubwa General Hospital, because I had been having teeth sensitivity for a while. I noticed when I chew, I feel particles and some discomfort. So I stopped by a neighbour’s house and told him I was heading to the hospital, but he convinced me to come to the health centre. He assured me I would meet a dentist who would attend to me immediately and I would spend less time and money. “By the time I got here, the doctor was already here attending to a patient, he was done with the patient in less than 20 minutes. I also enjoyed the patient/doctor relationship. I was able to discuss with the dentist on other issues and he educated me on how to go about it. So, I really enjoyed their services. On the cost aspect she said, it only cost me N3000 to fill the tooth, while other hospitals may have wasted my time and money, asking me to do one test or the other before they would have attended to me. “I have had a surgery in Kubwa General Hospital before, so I understand how they work. But this dentist just told me some facts and in less than 30 minutes, we were done and I feel very okay.” Asked if there was anything she felt was lacking in the services offered to her as a patient, she said, nothing. “In fact, I had referred a friend suffering from malaria here, she came and had to run some test, but it was still affordable and she was attended to in the nick of time.
As part of the Energy Audit/ experience for PHCs, LEADERSHIP Friday visited the Dutse Health Centre where it was obvious that despite the huge number of patients who accessed the services of the clinic, the facility was constantly challenged by poor power and energy as was attested to by some staff of the clinic. Speaking on the purpose of the audit, project coordinator for the sustainable Nigerian project of the, Heinrich Bolt Foundation, Donald Ikenna, in an exclusive interview, told LEADERSHIP Friday that the purpose of the audit was to create an advocacy tool for better funding to promote access to energy in PHCs. In his words “we hope that at the end of the audit, we should be able to put up a report for more advocacy to fund power to the PHCs. The Audit aimed at providing the necessary evidence as to how various PHCs manage power and energy within their facilities. So, the essence of this audit is to ensure we get the report as an advocacy tool for more funding and access to energy. The report is also aimed at getting stakeholders to use the report to ask and demand for better energy in their various stations. He noted that with the Federal Capital Territory Health Board seeking to ensure they get 24 hours power, they need this report as an evidence. We hope to get Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and even politicians to use the report as a tool to demanding better funding and access to energy. What inspired the project was the fact that access to electricity for development is key and within the Nigeria context, we basically have all it takes to have constant electricity throughout the country. “We have very good sunlight, lots of water and waste, many of which could be harnessed for electricity to create jobs, to solve most of our problems from access to health, better education and better working condition. However, we are not seeing all of that, so we think it is very important for us to start reaching out to different partners to see how we could start coming out with projects that would basically give Nigerians more access to electricity.” Speaking on challenges of the project, Mr Ikenna said there have been no recorded challenges since the project began. He recalled that their meeting with the FCT Health Board had been optimistic as they (FCT Health Board) had asked for partnership to the point of providing a list of 60 Primary Health Centres as against the initial 30 requested by the audit team. He maintained that the only challenge is the distance of various PHCs to the town as many were located outside the city centre.
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