Participants during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE, produced by PRIMORG, made known their frustrations on Wednesday in Abuja.
They noted that besides poor management ravaging PHCs in the country, corruption, which comes in the form of the sale of free drugs and vaccines, threatens healthcare delivery in facilities across the country.
A recent investigative report by Safer Media Initiative exposed the poor state of PHCs in some communities of Kwali and Abaji Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which led to an increase in cases of stillbirths and maternal and child mortality.
Speaking during the programme, a Staff Nurse, Blessing Amayaka, said that corruption seriously impacted service delivery at primary healthcare centres nationwide, especially in underserved rural communities.
Amayaka alluded that extortion of unsuspecting citizens seeking vaccines still happens in PHCs, adding that “corruption in the system is also fueling absenteeism of workers, employment-related infractions, informal payments and the use of placeholders.”
She urged President Bola Tinubu and the Health Ministry to fix and complete non-functional PHCs littered across the country and improve the financing of the facilities.
“Adequate care should be taken to make each primary healthcare centre functional. Corruption must be minimized at the facilities.
“President Tinubu and state governments should commit to implementing policies, strategies, regulatory framework and financial commitment and also establish adequate supervision, monitoring and evaluation of programs to ensure that wastage, abuse and misappropriation of funds are avoided,” Amayaka stressed.
On his part, the Executive Director of Safer Media Initiative, Peter Lota, joined calls for the government to ensure a facelift of PHCs across the country and good policies to standardize the facilities.
“We need a true policy because the primary healthcare centres are the first point of call for the local person in the village for the ordinary Nigerian, and so care should be taken to ensure that people get quality healthcare services,” Iota advised.
Nigerians from different states of the federation called into the radio programme with heart-wrenching experiences at PHCs in their localities. Here are some of the thoughts they shared:
Dominic from Abuja said: “My experience in a Kogi state community PHC is the worst I have seen. My wife was treated like an experimental animal, and if I have my way, I will sue the facility in court.
“You can imagine for 45 minutes, we were looking and waiting for the doctor to attend to my wife, and after the whole incident, I lost my wife,” He lamented.
Jane from Mpape in the FCT said: “Health workers have taken running of primary healthcare centers as their personal business.
“Here in Mpape, people are charged for every vaccine administered, both the ones the government says are free and the ones for sale. Free drugs are never available at the PHC in Mpape.”
An anonymous caller from one of the Nasarawa state communities added: “The problem at our PHCs is mainly lack of staff. Government workers at PHCs are few, while the majority of the workers are voluntary workers. Qualified personnel are also few, and this is a challenge we face out there”.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.
The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.