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20,000 Health Centres Abandoned – Minister

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Misplacement of priority, poor funding and undue pressure on specialist hospitals have been identified as the bane of the Nigerian health sector by the minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole.

He said that instead of building and operating only 10,000 well-funded primary healthcare centres (PHCs) across the country, the federal government opted for 30,000 of them.

Of the figure, he said that only 10,000 were functional while the rest 20,000 are abandoned leading to heavy traffic to the specialist hospitals set up to handle special illnesses.

Added to the mess in the industry is the refusal of most states in the federation to contribute their counterparts’ funds to the development of the nation’s health sector.

At the last count, Adewole said that 14 of the 36 states of the federation had failed to pay their N100million counterparts’ funding thereby refusing to subscribe to the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund initiated by the National Assembly for the wellbeing of the citizens.

Adewole painted this pathetic picture of the health sector yesterday when he appeared before the Senate, which on May 8, 2019 invited him to explain why the sector is in bad shape.

He was also asked to explain why most state governments have abandoned their health facilities, lack of medical doctors in such hospitals and the non-payment of staff salaries.

The minister told the senators that the abandonment of the 20,000 health centres had put serious pressure on the secondary and the tertiary hospitals which were established to treat special illnesses.

According to him, Nigerians who are afraid to visit the dilapidated healthcare centres now troop to the secondary and tertiary hospitals, thereby putting more pressure on them.

LEADERSHIP reports that the abandonment of about 20,000 PHCs has left the country with only 419 public hospitals, a situation that has led to several Nigerians sleeping on bare floor of teaching hospitals and medical centres to access health services.

Adewole who said that Nigeria currently has 22 teaching hospitals, 20 medical centres, 77 specialist hospitals, added that the abandonment of about 20,000 healthcare centres was responsible for failure of the sector to meet the health needs of Nigerians.

He said: “A health facility is not a hospital. Health institutions are difficult to run. We should stop building new structures. Nigeria only needs 10,000 of the 30,000 healthcare centres to work. This will reduce the pressure on the secondary and the tertiary hospitals.

“Building 30,000 primary healthcare centres is not the issue; you only need 10,000 of them to work,” he stressed

“The states must invest in the secondary healthcare centres. In some states, there are no staff in these centres while others don’t pay their health workers. Those paid only get some fractions. Some of the hospitals owned by state government are without doctors. Some only have one doctor in a hospital,” Adewale stated.

While ushering in the minister to brief them on the deteriorating state of the health sector in the country, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said that the Upper House was disturbed that despite the annual budgets for the health sector and other interventions, Nigerians are dying regularly because of obsolete equipment, inadequate drugs and poor infrastructure.

But the minister who appeared at the senate in company of the minister of state for health, director, health services, director, human resources, and six other chief medical directors of some medical centres and teaching hospitals, said medical centres and teaching hospitals were only expected to receive referrals on serious illnesses and not to treat patients of malaria.

According to him, “they are expected to receive referrals. They depend on functional primary healthcare centres for these referrals.

“Only 10 per cent of people with illnesses should go to tertiary hospitals. But there is a major challenge. The foundation is faulty, the wall is weak and we should be concerned about the root,” Adewole said.

He explained that the “primary healthcare centres are the foundation, secondary hospitals are the wall, and the tertiary hospitals which are supposed to be the roof are overstretched because of the poor maintenance of the primary healthcare centres.”

Adewole who gave a rundown of history of the Nigerian health sector, said that the General Ibrahim Babangida’s administration invested on the health sector but its efforts were not sustained.

The minister said: “That effort collapsed after a few years. The Olusegun Obasanjo administration invested on the tertiary health centre which is the roof. But when this administration came, we decided to restructure the pyramid. Nigerians have no confidence in the primary and secondary healthcare centres anymore.

“The primary and secondary healthcare centres have collapsed, and Nigerians now go to the teaching hospitals. But teaching hospitals are not meant to treat malaria, but complicated cases,” Adewole said.

He listed the 14 states which are yet to show interest on the health support scheme as Kebbi, Jigawa Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Gombe, Rivers, Borno, Zamfara, Ondo, Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Ogun and Sokoto.

During the interactive session, the Senate leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan, the deputy Senate leader, Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, Senators Shehu Sani, Emmanuel Paulker, Gbenga Ashafa, Francis Alimikena, Sam Egwu, Danjuma La’ah, Kabiru Marafa, Victor Umeh, Olusola Adeyeye amongst others, insisted that the minister must work with the states to ensure that the health centres work again.

In his contribution, Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central) shocked the senators when he revealed that about N300 million constituency fund for his people to buy equipment for the Federal Medical Centre, Gusau was diverted by the former minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu to buy mosquito nets for people in Enugu State.

Marafa claimed that another N200 million for his constituency project was also diverted, adding that despite his petition in 2017, nothing was done.

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