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Revitalising post-COVID primary healthcare

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Sir: The fears, distresses that followed the contagious epidemic – Coronavirus which practically crumbled the world economy cannot be forgotten in a hurry.

The pandemic led to the shutdown of all businesses, schools, religious worship centres and leisure spots except essential services. An unimaginable, unprecedented global lockdown that apart from members of nuclear families, everyone isolated, and restricted closeness with other persons for fear of infection.

Strangely, developed nations recorded the highest casualties in the COVID-19 deaths despite their huge commitments to primary healthcare (PHC) compared to Africa particularly Nigeria with meagre attention to the health sector.

In fact, some estimates at the WHO believe that COVID-19 deaths have been undercounted across the globe and that the worldwide tally of nearly 6.3 million deaths may actually be two times higher. Last month, in the United States alone, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported that America has aggregately surpassed one million deaths attributed to the disease.

Now, in this post-COVID-19 pandemic, revitalising the primary healthcare (PHC) in the country should be given priority by the authorities as what happened during the pandemic should be an eye-opener. PHC, an ‘essential health care’ that is based on scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology is the first level of contact for individuals, family and the community with the national health system. It also addresses the main health problems in the community, providing health promotion, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services accordingly. Amongst its scope is routine medical checkups, screening for common health issues, prescribing necessary medications, treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, managing chronic conditions, and management of acute health conditions. Health, it is held, is wealth. Thus, revitalising primary healthcare will impel economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 pandemic.

The second reason is the alarming WHO records which reveal that about 3,000 children die each day of preventable diseases resulting from lack of primary healthcare. Bringing it home, Nigeria from the said data represents one in seven of the global maternal deaths, expressed in 119 preventable maternal deaths daily, and the impact this has on family health and child survival, in general, cannot be underrated. 

Furthermore, Nigeria is the top country in the world in terms of the number of zero-dose children (children who never received any single dose of vaccine since they were born). This is precarious. Necessarily, it is incumbent on the authorities to give the ‘one PHC centre per ward policy’ utmost commitment, alongside sensitisation on child immunisation.

Arguably, the ‘one PHC centre per ward policy’ in Lagos is rapidly gathering momentum. For instance, Lagos presently, has no fewer than 392 PHC centres spread across its 377 wards – (245 wards created by Federal Government and 132 wards created by the state from its 37 LCDAs) and strategic places, and progressively being boosted with needed workforce. This should be a template for other states for replication.

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