With 70 per cent of the population of people living in rural areas of Ondo State having little or no access to health facilities, BABATOPE OKEOWO reports that the state government has jettisoned the idea of Mother and Child Hospitals to concentrate on Primary Health Centers scattered around 18 Local Government Areas of the state
With the massive renovation of Primary Health Centers across the 203 political wards in Ondo State, the state government may have abandoned the concept of Mother and Child Hospital, made popular during the immediate past administration of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko.
For now, the state government in the last two years has renovated 576 Primary Health Centers in order to bring health care delivery to the grassroots. This, the Executive Secretary of the Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Francis Akanbiemu, said is to make sure that what the Mother and Child Hospital do in designated areas are replicated at the grassroots.
The Mother and Child Hospital’s concept was popular among the populace in the state as it catered for pregnant women and children under the age of five free of charge. The hospitals, which began in Akure, the state capital earned the state government accolades among the electorate. All government’s visitors were taken to the hospital in order to showcase the facilities there.
The Hospitals which were tagged as first in Nigeria took deliveries of more than 10,000 babies in the first year of operation. The fact that its operation was devoid of any payment including caesarean operations made many communities put pressures on the government for such facilities. The Mother and Child Hospital which was one of the selling points of the immediate past administration is now located in seven other centers in the state.
However, Akanbiemu said various countries and international organisations realised that over 70 per cent of the population resided at the level of the community which means that for government to provide health care service for that large number, it must take health care services to them. These sets of people, reports said live in hard to reach areas, where there are no good roads and social amenities.
The minorities of the population which represents 30 per cent that live in the urban areas are enjoying social amenities and healthcare facilities like Mother and Child Hospitals, Specialists Hospitals, and Teaching Hospitals. These hospitals are situated in the state capital or headquarters of local governments.
Despite the fact that a large number of people live in the rustic areas with little or no access to medical care, the Primary Health Centers which are supposed to cater for these large number of people are also underfunded in terms of human resources, infrastructure, and finance.
In order to cater for the larger percentage of the population, which lives in rural area, the state government has shifted its attention from the popular Mother and Child Hospitals to the Primary Health Centers. These PHC centers, Akanbiemu said, have the capacity to function as mini Mother and Child Hospitals where they are situated.
His words: “This government has expanded initial mother and child hospitals from the traditional two to seven and those seven are located across all the zones of the state, and the concept is that once a woman or a child less than five years require health service, those services that are given at the level of the Mother and Child Akure and Ondo would be given at those areas.
“Coming to the PHC, the system that the present government in the state has embarked upon is to make the services available at those health centres. Last year, the state government procured some life-saving equipment to help in the delivery of babies. Most of the health facilities now have equipment that can be used to detect if a newborn baby has enough oxygen, all these are facilities you see at Mother and Child hospitals.
“But no matter how equipped a PHC center is, there is this linkage between the traditional PHC centers and these Mother and Child hospitals in those designated areas such that any case that is beyond the management of these PHC are referred to the Mother and child. In order words, the services they are getting at Mother and Child are almost the same but the ones that require greater skills are referred to nearest General Hospital or the newly designated mother and Child hospitals. The government is working to make sure that even though the PHC have the same standard as what we have in Ondo and Akure Mother and Child Hospital.”
With the rehabilitation of the PHC across the state, Akanbiemu said the people have now expressed confidence in the government-owned hospital at the detriment of Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) which came to the rescue because of lack of access to healthcare deliveries at the grassroots.
According to him, “As at 2012, the people that deliver through PHC attendant was less than 60 but as at today we are having over 70, this survey was not done by us and this means that delivery is more at our facilities and not only that you will also see the immunization coverage.”
His words “In 2017 when I took over, the indicator that was done by UNICEF and other partners showed that our coverage was around 66 percent. But as at today, we are about 79 percent that has been a tremendous improvement. So, we work on evidence and from the national survey, you found out that the utilization of those health facilities is virtually increasing.
“The numbers of delivering are increasing because people don’t pay for delivery and bringing children under the age of five to hospitals even if they are admitted, those services are provided free. So, because those services are provided free, people will always patronize and are patronizing, more so that that the quality of service is also increasing.”
Akanbiemu said the many facilities including solar power system in the 576 out of 604 Primary Health Centers were put in place through the World Bank assisted project; the Nigeria State Health Investment Project (NSHIP).
He said “Most of the successes we are recording in the health system of Ondo state today, NSHIP has contributed immensely to it and is still contributing greatly to it.
NSHIP ensures that the community is part of whatever they do as far as the health facilities that are under NSHIP is concern, the chairman of the health committee is from the community and they still need to account, even the pricing of the health care services including what they need to do to ensure the health services are better is jointly done by the facilities and the community members. In terms of whatever achievements recorded in Ondo state since NSHIP started in 2014, a bigger credit goes to NSHIP”
Expressing satisfaction with the activities of the PHCs in the State, Akanbiemu said the government was working towards ensuring that more human resources are available at the health centers. He said that Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu is working at ensuring that the state has at least 90 doctors at PHC level to add to the about 30 that are already there.
He added that the governor has given an approval to inject more health workers, including doctors, nurse, and laboratory scientist into health system making the human resources available at the grassroots unprecedented in the country.
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