The building is deserted; the wards are empty and personnel are absent except for a matron who signs her name in the attendance book – perhaps just to remind visitors that a human being exists in the hospital.
Like a plague, women now avoid the Anambra State government-owned Uhuowele/Oghalegbu Primary Health Centre in the Ihiala Local Government Area, despite an increasing need for healthcare services.
Since 2014 when the contract was awarded, the facility has been unable to serve the residents, particularly pregnant and nursing mothers, due to a lack of facilities and medical personnel.
In 2014, the contract for the building of the hospital was given out for N18million, but that only exists in the figure, as the people of the area had deserted the ill-equipped facility as a result of the absence of water, medical equipment and quality staff such as doctors and nurses.
This has left the fate of pregnant women and nursing mothers in the community to hang in the balance.
The healthcare centre currently boasts of only two nurses, perhaps just to mark attendance.
An Ihiala community advocate in the area explained how the state government had abandoned the facility and deprived the residents of quality medical care.
She said: “This is a project that was awarded in 2014 for N18million and the contract sum was actually N20million. But seven years after, here we are with a facility without common water and only one matron and one nurse. This is not acceptable.
“No fewer than 10,000 residents including pregnant women and nursing mothers should be using this primary health centre but it is moribund. This should serve as a wake-up call to the government.”
The government hospital in Oghalegbu Uhuowelle Ward in Okija has no fence and is vulnerable to attacks as there is also no security personnel.
“The hospital is like a ghost centre. We prefer to use traditional healthcare or private hospitals than to risk our lives in that hospital. They don’t have drugs. They don’t have doctors and they don’t have any standard. So, nobody is going there for any treatment,” a resident, Esther Adaobi said.
A worker at the hospital who pleaded anonymity stated that she hoped the state government would remember them one day and attend to the urgent needs and facilities lacking in the health centre.
In Nigeria, maternal mortality is still on the increase because of poorly equipped government hospitals such as in the Ihiala.
According to the Journal of Global Health Reports, the maternal mortality ratio has remained high in Nigeria in the last two decades, with the country currently accounting for about 20 per cent of the global maternal deaths.
Nigeria’s Maternal mortality ratio (MMR) is alarming. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the MMR of Nigeria is 814 (per 100,000 live births).
The lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is 1 in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4900.
According to the journal, the current evidence suggests that the high rate of maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria is linked to the three forms of maternal delay; one, the delay in making the decision to seek maternal health care; two, the delay in locating and arriving at a medical facility; and three, the delay in receiving skilled pregnancy care when the woman gets to the health facility.
Nigeria indeed has about 34,000 Primary Health Centres but studies show that maternal mortality in Nigeria would only reduce if there is an improvement in the quality of care provided within the health facilities.
While the ill-equipped Uhuowele/Oghalegbu Primary Health Centre in Ihiala seems to be out of government’s attention, a civic organisation, Public and Private Development Centre, Abuja, which advocates for open contracting and procurement data, accentuated the plight of the facility in a recent outreach.
The PPDC officials sent monitors to the hospital and met with about 35 civil societies in the state and community leaders on how to salvage the deplorable situation.
“Our intervention under this project prioritises citizen engagement and mobilisation for action, by repositioning citizens in our pilot states to query contract outcomes across all levels and contribute to policy choices that impact their lives.
“Our strategy included sharpening advocacy and dialogue skills of local CSOs and their capacity; improving the local community’s capacity to understand and use civic-tech platforms for contract analysis and investigation, reporting, and advocacy for system improvement,” an official said.
The PPDC Program Officer, Nonye Akubuo, added that the activities of the trained CSOs in its programmes included contract monitoring and reporting.
It was observed that at the hospital, apart from the lack of personnel, there is also no provision for People Living With Disabilities.
“Like it is common with government hospitals where there is no special provision for physically challenged women – be it, pregnant women or nursing mothers – so you have in Ihiala. This is wrong and this is part of the advocacy that we are doing,” one of the civil societies’ officials said.
Meanwhile, PPDC Akubuo said, the team of monitors visited the Uhuowelle community in Okija on April 14 and engaged stakeholders to discuss the contract implementation of primary health care centres as it affected their respective communities – not only Ihiala.
“In attendance were the traditional heads in each community, women groups, youth groups, community health extension workers, and People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs).
“The engagement provided an opportunity to educate the community stakeholders on how to effectively monitor projects awarded in their communities and how to properly channel their grievances for immediate actions. Furthermore, it allowed the stakeholders to share their challenges being faced as a result of the poor state of the PHC and other pressing socio-economic needs which was documented by our team to use in ongoing advocacy strategies in the state,” she said.
Speaking for the Anambra State government, the Director, Community Health, of the Anambra Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr Umeh Frank, promised at the meeting in April that the state government would attend to Ihiala hospital and other such hospitals in need of urgent facilities and provide them with the necessary equipment.
It is not clear, however, how long the residents have to wait for the government to commence work and fulfil its promise on the abandoned hospital.
Source: The Nation