The Nigerian government is rolling out innovative strategies to optimise services at primary healthcare centres across the country as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic and possible situations of public emergency, an official has said.
This is geared towards Nigeria’s quest for achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Faisal Shuaib, the executive director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said.
This is contained in an overview of the agency’s activities in the past four years and its plans for the next 10 years shared to a host of health editors on Tuesday after a meeting with the NPHCDA head in Abuja.
The document provided updates on the progress across the agency’s key cardinal areas of focus in the last four years which includes upscaling routine immunisation and the fight to end polio.
The overview also gave insight on plans for strengthening PHCs towards achieving UHC in a Post-Polio, Peri-COVID19 Era (2021-2030).
“The achievements, successes, lessons learned and challenges over the last four years have provided a foundation for driving a strategic 10 years’ roadmap for Primary Healthcare System Strengthening by convening a 2020 PHC Summit,” the official said.
He said the NPHCDA, with support from the government and partners, successfully achieved its target of eradicating Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria.
“This was made possible through concerted efforts towards improving routine immunisation that saw the establishment of the national emergency routine immunisation coordination centre,” he noted. “This brought about a drastic improvement in immunisation coverage.”
Under the 10-year plan, immunisation rates will be improved up to 80 per cent by 2028.
Response to COVID-19
According to the document, the agency had set up command centres at national and state level to work collaboratively with Nigeria’s infectious disease outfit, NCDC and other partner agencies to manage and respond to COVID-19 pandemic
“The Agency facilitated training of over 220,000 healthcare workers and community volunteers at National and sub-national levels on best practices during routine operations and service delivery.
“The NPHCDA supported the procurement and distribution of PPE to health care workers to ensure their safety during the training and immediate routine operations and service delivery.”
There has been a consistent decline in the number of daily infections and fatalities recorded from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the past three days, no deaths have been recorded with daily cases stuck under 300 in the past six weeks even as hospital admissions have continuously declined since peaking at over 20, 000 in mid-July. On the other hand, recoveries have improved significantly.
Of the nearly 60, 000 total COVID-19 infections so far, over 51, 000 persons have been discharged from hospitals after treatment while a little over 7, 000 active cases remain in the country.
While these are considered a welcome development, dropping the ball now can be dangerous if it breeds a false sense of security, health experts say.
They, in fact, believe the steady decline in infections and deaths poses, “more questions than answers”.
A few weeks ago, the NCDC warned that there is likely to be an even more devastating second wave of coronavirus in states such as Adamawa due to the non-compliance to COVID-19 health guidelines.
The agency said it is only when more persons are tested that the spread of the deadly disease can be addressed.
The 2021 – 2030 NPHCDA road is aimed at strengthening Nigeria’s quest of achieving UHC.
UHC which entails providing effective access — including financial risk protection — to at least essential healthcare for even the poorest and the most vulnerable population, is key to achieving the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
It is the central target of the SDG 3, one of the 17 goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030.
A viable and people-oriented PHC system will be key in the achievement of Universal Health Coverage, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Going by the agency’s blueprint, a PHC should have at least one or more doctors, a pharmacist, a staff nurse and other paramedical support staff (community health workers).
It should also be well-equipped for deliveries, immunisation, preventive and basic curative care, coupled with an ambulance for referrals.
But the PHC system in Nigeria is dogged by multiple challenges despite concerted efforts. This is largely because billions of naira, reportedly spent over the decades on health facilities by the government at different levels, were mismanaged.
Again, there is an element of misplaced priority.
While thousands of PHCs lie in waste, governments have continued to build more across the country without any plan for sustaining and equipping them.
Because of such shortfalls, President Muhammadu Buhari, in January 2017 flagged-off a scheme to revitalise about 10,000 PHCs across Nigeria.
But little work has been done as many PHCs still lack basic needs.
In the 10-year plan, the NPHCDA said it would focus efforts “on developing a pragmatic PHC delivery model that will ensure coverage for the poor and vulnerable and reduce maternal and child deaths which is the key targets of UHC.”