Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, has said the country must fully revitalise its Primary Health Care Centres (PHC) to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Mr Ehanire, while speaking at the opening ceremony of a two-day Primary Health Care summit in Abuja on Thursday, said the country must recommit to strengthening its PHC systems.
“The PHC message itself is not new, because it is underpinned by the Alma Ata Declaration and has been amplified in Nigeria ever since the ministerial term of Ransome Kuti: but despite all that, it somehow has not found the required resonance, when it comes to implementation,” he said.
He said the summit is timely, insisting that the country must put in more efforts to ensure UHC for everyone.
“This is a call to recommit to strengthening our PHC system, and to emphasise that this administration is dedicated to making progress towards attainment of UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria,” he said.
He noted that the summit must not be another missed opportunity to address issues that hamstring the country’s health sector.
The summit, which is themed; ‘Re-imagining PHC in Nigeria’ was organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
The summit aims to galvanise stakeholders to invest and collaboratively implement a PHC revitalisation strategy for the country.
The summit is also geared towards launching a historic programme to transform the under-resourced, weak PHC system in Nigeria by leveraging private sector, international agencies and government collaborations.
Mr Ehanire said to achieve UHC, the country must overcome obstacles militating against giving due attention to PHCs and their optimal performance.
He said the foundation of any strong health system and for UHC rests on a robust, resilient PHC system.
He said health experts reckon that up to 70 per cent of the country’s disease burden can be treated at PHCs and vital disease prevention and health promotion education can be given, including immunisation.
“Strengthening PHCs, not only assures better population health but reduces the workload on secondary and tertiaryhealthcare levels and also the catastrophic out-of-pocket patient spending on health,” he said.
Mr Ehanire said Nigeria needs to urgently revitalise PHC services by ensuring their availability at designated communities, at least one functional PHC per ward.
He noted that this should come with adequate human resources for health, comprising nurses, skilled birth attendants and other staff for basic healthcare.
“They must be supported with efficient supply chain management that assures availability of essential medicines, medical devices, consumables and other commodities,” he said.
The minister explained that the newest PHC design in the country sees the provision of staff quarters in every centre, to enable round-the-clock service delivery.
“The plan also requires an obligatory source of potable running water and steady power supply with solar aggregate, for a conducive environment to deliver quality healthcare services,” he said.
‘PHC is important’
Speaking at the summit, the World Health Organisation (WHO) regional director, Matshidiso Moeti, said PHC is an integral part of any economic development.
Ms Moeti commended the Nigerian government for the desire to reimagine primary health care in Nigeria.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that health care is critical to every aspect of a country’s development.
In her remarks, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Leonard, said the U.S government is pleased to have a close partnership with the government on the COVID-19 response.
Ms Leonard noted that the U.S government had partnered with Nigeria to invest in the health and well-being of the people.
She said this ranges from providing anti-retroviral treatment to over 1.7 million people living with HIV to scaling up immunisations including COVID-19, malaria and other disease outbreaks.
“The U.S government stands ready to support the PHC revitalisation in Nigeria. The diplomatic community stands ready to support this move,” she said.
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