BY V. AL-PEA
Health is wealth, so goes the popular maxim. This means that good health care delivery in a society is part of the foundation on which it builds wealth. In light of this, TMV decided to look at primary medical care in Plateau State.
At a primary healthcare clinic at the Old Legislators Quarters in Jos North local government area, Mrs. Victoria Useni, a senior community health extension worker gave TMV a tour around their facilities. She informed us that, “community health workers are just like community doctors because we handle cases at the primary levels. It is when such cases are beyond our level that we refer to our seniors, who are the doctors.” Useni also lamented that the local residents, many of whom are government officials, often choose to ignore the clinic for primary care and consult with the doctors, who then issue them prescriptions. “Most of the time they don’t patronize the clinic. You will find them going to doctors and when they are given prescription, that’s when they come back to us for injection,” Useni explains.
Walking around the clinic grounds, only three beds, which used for patient observation, were present. The facility also had a labor room with a few beds and a poorly equipped laboratory. Useni informed us that one of the major challenges facing the clinic, staffed by thirteen people, is the endemic Nigerian problem of power outages. She explains, “Because we don’t have a stand by generator, we often use kerosene lamps, which poses serious problems to us.” Another challenge she cites is the continuous supply of drugs. Recently, a non-governmental organization named GAVI Alliance gave succour for this issue. Mrs. Usaini was also full of praise to the community for their efforts towards providing drugs for the clinic. While the clinic has the capacity to treat minor cases like malaria, they are often referred to bigger hospitals because of its poorly equipped state.
While visiting other primary health care clinics within the Jos North metropolis, some staff who had just returned from weeks long industrial action were seen cleaning. The secretary of one clinic refused to speak to TMV, but a staff member obliged to comment anonymously, describing the condition of the clinic as pathetic. “You can imagine that it is the staff that buy some of the drugs and subsequently sell to patients,” they informed us. In other words, the clinic has become a money making venture for some of the workers. While moving around the clinic grounds to capture photographs, a security man on duty quickly accosted the TMV crew and ordered us off the premises.
TMV observed that virtually all the primary care clinics in the Jos North metropolis had problems of continuous drug supply. If primary care clinics within the city metropolis are poorly equipped and supplied with drugs, one can only imagine the conditions of clinics located outside the city, hundreds of kilometers away.