Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, has said Nigeria is aggressively addressing challenges affecting the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.
He noted that the agency would strengthen the capacities of Primary Health Care Centres to address the challenges.
Dr. Shuaib disclosed that part of the effort to address the challenges was through innovative Community-based Health Research, Innovative-training and Services Program, which is meant to be launched on May 22.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the agency 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 maternal and infant mortality that occurs daily in the country.
It was against this background that 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 the country.
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 is critical to curbing maternal, perinatal, and neonatal morbidity and mortality.
Dr. Shaiub said that the NPHCDA had also articulated a four-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.”
Dr. Shuaib, therefore, said that CRISP would be implemented in partnership with teaching hospitals, federal medical centres, NPHCDA, state primary healthcare 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 said.
In addition, the NPHCDA boss said skilled birth attendants, medical doctors, midwives, nurses, and community health extension workers trained in the management of emergencies would be recruited and deployed to priority PHC facilities nationwide.
He said, “We find it extremely important and helpful that we address the human resource for health gaps in our PHCs.
“80 per cent of the incidence of maternal and child deaths in Nigeria occur at the community levels, largely due to the lack of services of skilled health workers in the PHC facilities.”
Dr. Shuaib, however, said primary healthcare centres have remained unattractive to skilled health workers who prefer to be stationed in urban secondary and tertiary health facilities.
He said in spite of that, the government will strengthen the centres because they have proved to be strategic in reducing maternal and newborn mortality in low and middle-income countries, including Nigeria.
Dr. Shuaib gave an assurance that the CRISP initiative would address the problems by operating at a scale involving teaching hospitals and federal medical centres across the country.
“This means that the CRISP resident doctors from the engaged teaching hospitals and federal medical centres would be deployed to PHC facilities to support service provision and on-the-job capacity building of PHC health workers.
“CRISP is targeted for implementation across the 36 states of the federation plus the FCT in a phased manner.
“As a multi-stakeholder investment, CRISP will be funded by the government of Nigeria with support from development partners, philanthropists, among others,” he added.
The NPHCDA boss reassured that the health and well-being of Nigerians will continue to remain the government’s top priority.