By Iyemah David
The Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib said Nigeria is aggressively addressing challenges affecting the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Dr Shauib said on Wednesday in Abuja that the agency would strengthen the capacities of Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs) in addressing the challenges.
He added that part of the effort was through innovative Community-based Health Research, Innovative-training and Services Program (CRISP), to be launched on May 22.
The NPHCDA had identified inadequate skilled manpower as a major challenge affecting primary healthcare delivery in the country.
In 2019, the Nigerian government declared a state of emergency to reduce the number of mothers and children dying every day in the country.
In this respect, the NPHCDA set up the National Emergency Maternal and Child Health Intervention Centre to provide oversight on reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health plus nutrition in Nigeria.
Through this centre, the agency has been coordinating a set of related high-impact interventions nationwide to reduce preventable maternal and under-5 mortalities.
One of such interventions was the provision of skilled health workers in PHC facilities, which was critical to curbing maternal, perinatal, and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
Dr Shaiub said that the NPHCDA had also articulated a 4-point agenda for the repositioning of the PHCs to ensure the attainment of UHC.
“As part of this agenda, the country discussed the need to close the gaps in the adequacy and distribution of human resources for health at the primary healthcare level.
“To be guided by evidence, they followed this with a national health facility assessment in 2022.
“Findings from the assessment revealed that only 1.8 per cent (463 out of 25,843) Primary Health Care facilities in the country have the minimum number of required Skilled Birth Attendants (SBA), which is four per facility.
“Aside from gross inadequacy, there is the problem of unequal distribution of available SBAs in the PHC facilities across the country.”
Shuaib therefore said that CRISP would be implemented in partnership with Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres, NPHCDA, State Primary Health Care Boards, Local Government Health Authorities and the communities to support primary healthcare development.
“The intervention specifically focuses on increasing, retaining and improving the quality, adequacy, competency, and distribution of a committed multidisciplinary primary health care workforce.
“This includes facility outreach and community-based health workers supported through effective management supervision and appropriate compensation.
“CRISP aims to leverage the rural posting of Resident Doctors from teaching hospitals to boost and guarantee the quality of care at the PHC level through their active involvement in primary health service delivery.
“This is targeted at improving reproductive, maternal, newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, amongst other health services within the benefiting communities,” he explained.
In addition, the NPHCDA boss said Skilled Birth Attendants, Medical Doctors, Midwives, Nurses, and Community Health Extension Workers trained in management of emergencies, would be recruited and deployed to priority PHC facilities nationwide.
He however said primary health care centres have remained unattractive to skilled health workers who prefer to be stationed in urban secondary and tertiary health facilities.
Shuaib said in spite of that, the government will strengthen the centres because they have proved to be strategic in reducing maternal and new-born mortality in low and middle-income countries, including Nigeria.
He assured that the CRISP initiative would address the problem by operating at a scale involving Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres across the country.