Recently, the Heinrich Bolt Foundation, supported about 15 field monitoring officers and Journalists to conduct key investigations into the energy situation in primary health care centers (PHCs), across the FCT, Ruth Tene Natsa was there for LEADERSHIP Friday.
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 is aimed at providing the necessary evidence as to how various PHCs manage power and energy within their facilities.
He maintained that the essence of the 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”.
Ikenna noted that with the Federal Capital Territory Health Board (FCTHB) seeking to ensure they get 24 hours power across the city’s PHCs, the report becomes a necessary tool which can be used 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 Nigerian context, we basically have all it takes to have constant electricity throughout the country,” he said.
“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.”
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday, a consultant on the project, Tsema Yvonne Okoye, said the project was very organised as they had a vision.
“And we realised that we do have a problem and also believe that if sustainable energy are provided, half of our health care challenges would be solved”.
Stating her recommendations, she said, “we need to get all stakeholders in government, civil society organisations and the international communities to come partner with the Nigerian government on providing health care more efficiently.
We all need to put our hands on the ground, to identify that we have an energy problem and solving the problem is not as expensive as we think it is. And that is what we are hoping that at the end of the survey, we would have a stakeholders’ meeting with government and have a conversation about this crises.
We also want political office holders, such as Legislators, start to adopt some of the PHCs as part of their constituency projects, so as to provide better health care, particularly in the rural areas.
Meanwhile, on a visit to the Dutsen Makaranta Primary Health Centre, which boasts of 12 permanent staff, seven volunteers inclusive of two experienced retired nurses, two community health staff, two volunteer cleaners and some in the records unit. Officer in charge of the clinic, Maryam Ahmed Abdulrahman, said the PHC is connected to the national grid and enjoys over 12 hours of energy supply daily.
She stated that even though the clinic does not have a meter, they were on estimated billing, which cost the clinic as high as N20,000 monthly. ”Where there is no light we use the standby generator and spend just about two thousand naira (N2k) weekly to fuel the generator”.
With an estimated number of 60 patients patronising the clinic weekly, it is no wonder that the clinic has a pharmacy, a laboratory, records, family planning and immunisation units among others. Basically, the laboratory and labour room are the facilities that use the most light here and the facility as a whole.
“We have a standing refrigerator, we have a solar deep freezer that is no longer in use because the solar panels are bad. It got spoiled long ago and we have tried to put it back in order but to no avail. So we abandoned it and are using a small refrigerator for the storage of our vaccines as our solar freezer is no longer working.”
Speaking on challenges faced by patients to the clinic, she said, “Challenges include lack of seats due to lack of chairs and having to wait for long as a result of the low workforce we have. We have two wards, male and female wards and because it is a primary health care, we do not admit, we just keep patients for observation.
The Nursing Midwife said “we have not lost any patient as any condition that is beyond our expertise are referred immediately. “Worst emergencies we have had to contend with are asthmatics or road traffic accidents emergencies, convulsion for children.”
Hajiya Maryam called on the support of the Nigerian government, particularly the FCTA Administration, to look into expanding the clinic, which was already overwhelmed by the number of patients. She also called for the engagement of more workers as well as the provision of more facilities.
One of the field officers on the project, Moyosore Okeyode, who monitored the Kwali Area council, was of the view that electricity and insecurity were the major challenges of PHCs in the area council.
“In most of the villages we visited, the PHCs were off grid and had no light. Most of them were abandoned despite that they had beautiful structures with little or no facilities to make the structures work.
“Sometimes staff do not even go there as they have nothing to do. And in some cases, only one or two health workers, so often members of the community choose to go to Kwali to access medical health care as the PHCs do not even have the energy to store available vaccines.
Also, most of the PHCs visited had no proper fencing and those are major problems for them.”
He advised that it is not enough to have good buildings without checking on how they fare. So, there should always be a monitoring team that would go there often to hear about their challenges and seek for solutions towards those challenges.
Another field monitor, Rasheed Shuaib, who covered the Abaji Area council, noted that most of the PHCs lacked alternative Energy sources such as solar and those who most often, where not working.
The officers who visited, Yaba, Kpashe and Nuku were burgled and all all 10 PHCs he covered, there were no paid security by government or Area councils. So staff also served as clinic security.
In Abaji there were three doctors with one assigned as the HOD who spent the time monitoring, while the second was on study leave such that only one doctor tended to the teeming patients.
He, however, commended the work being done at Ndayaure which had paid security.
Some of the buildings had gigantic buildings but we’re mostly underutilised due to the absence of a sitting doctor.
In his recommendations, he urged that the PHCs be lit as he noted that even the central PHC had no light and depended on generators and torch lights. He further called on government and other people of good will to support the clinics with alternative power as well as ensure better security.
Another field monitor, who covered the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Ebiere Okoma, said PHCs in AMAC were better organised as most of them were provided with solar panels and where they were lacking, NGOs had been there to improve primary health care deliveries.
She said major challenges were security, with thieves getting in to steal and the gatemen letting people in at odd hours.
She noted that ethnicism and religion was also an issue in some of the places as the security man could not control those who went in and out of the clinic and urged that stiffer control measures to access into the PHCs must be imposed