Controversy is trailing the supply of drugs allegedly worth N7m by the< National Primary Health Care Development Agency to Arigbajo Primary Healthcare Centre, located in Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State. The lawmaker that facilitated the procurement is alleging that the medicines supplied are not useful to the centre while health workers of the PHC fear that some of the medicines that have been under lock and key for about three months may soon expire. AMARACHI OKEH reports<
Tracka, a non-l organisation that tracks the implementation of budgetary provisions and constituency projects, recently raised alarm over unused drugs at Arigbajo Primary Health Care Centre in Ewekoro Local Government Area of Ogun State.
The NGO had alleged that the PHC was not allowed to use the drugs worth N7m because “the facilitator (lawmaker), instructed that they should not use it pending the commissioning.”
According to the budget document obtained by PUNCH HealthWise, the Federal Government had earmarked N7m for the supply of drugs to Arigbajo PHC in the 2021 Federal Government Constituency Project in the state.
The implementing agency for the project is the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
The allocation for the constituency project is listed in the budget document with the unique code ERGP25160687 under the ministry of health through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
The budgeted N7m was described in the ERGP line items as ‘Supply of Drugs for Arigbajo PHC in Ewekoro Local Government’.
Lawmaker indicts NPHCDA<
Every constituency project is facilitated and monitored by the lawmaker representing the constituency at the Federal House of Representatives.
Following the allegation by Tracka, PUNCH HealthWise correspondent reached out to the member representing Ifo/Ewekoro constituency, Hon Ishiaka Ibrahim.
According to the lawmaker, the drugs have not been put to use due to the complaints by the PHC that the medications they received are not useful to their centre.
According to him, what the NPHCDA delivered to the PHC was not what could be used by the centre.
He said, “The drugs are not yet in use because they told me that what the primary health care development agency delivered is not what they can use.
“I have already contacted the PHC so when I’m around they will send their representative from the state so that all of us will have a physical check.
“That is why it is with them, it is in the hospital there, it is not in anybody’s house.
“I told the NPHCDA to get a list of what is needed from that hospital which they failed to do and the hospital told me that some of the drugs they brought are not what they can use.
“I don’t want any mix-up. Once I am back, the representative of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency in the state will have to come with the local chairman and the councilor for health and perhaps the ministry of health in the state, so that everybody will be on the same page.
“That is why I told them to deliver it. I want the PHC to sign for it. We will conduct a joint inspection and they will make their comment.”
He, however, stated that he is not aware of the allegations that the seven-million-naira drugs delivered were not up to the total sum.
A visit to Arigbajo PHC<
To unravel the mystery concerning the drugs, PUNCH Healthwise visited the Primary health centre in April and confirmed that the drugs supplied since February 2022 have not yet been put to use by the facility.
Multiple sources at the hospital who spoke with our correspondent confirmed that the drugs have been received and remained unused.
They also alleged that there were discrepancies in the procurement process and claimed that the drugs supplied were not worth N7m.
Another staff at the hospital speaking under anonymity also claimed that the drugs supplied are not what is needed at the centre.
PUNCH HealthWise also found out that the challenge facing the PHC is not just of lack of needed drugs. PUNCH HealthWise findings revealed that beyond the need for drugs and other commodities, the PHC is also in dire need of infrastructure refurbishment as the centre is now in a poor state.
The Arigbajo PHC is located on a street that is not far away from the busy road linking Lagos to Ogun state through Sango Otta.
When our correspondent visited the centre last Friday, it was empty save for three workers on duty, a new mother who had just delivered her son in the early hours of that Friday morning and two other family members who had spent the night with the new mum.
While the new mum and family members praised the effectiveness of the health workers stationed at the PHC, they lamented the lack of equipment at the hospital.
The new mother who identified herself as Kehinde Smart bemoaned the infestation of the PHC by mosquitoes but lauded the workers at the PHC for being efficient with the little they have, praising them for helping her to deliver without complications.
Speaking with our correspondent on her experience at the PHC, the new mum said, “when we came here last night everywhere was dark, there was no light, there was even no water. They pumped the water just this morning with a generator.
“Mosquitoes finished us here last night. Even my friend’s baby did not escape the mosquitoes. Mosquito bites were all over her face. We had to take her home this morning.
“They need to change the beds, the nets and the windows. The ceiling fans and the lights should also be changed. They are not working,” she lamented.
But the new mother still lauded the workers for their dedication. According to her, despite the bad condition of the hospital, she was not worried because she had faith in the workers.
“The workers are doing a great job. Despite the lack of equipment and the poor state of this place, they are doing their best. They are also caring.”
PUNCH HealthWise also found that while the rooms/wards were spacious, the facility lacks the needed medical equipment and also personnel.
According to a 2017 study by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, only about 20 per cent of the 30,000 PHC facilities across Nigeria are fully functional.
According to the study titled, ‘Primary Health Care in Nigeria: 24 Years after Olikoye Ransome-Kuti’s Leadership’ and authored by Bolaji Aregbeshola and Samina Khan from the University of Lagos, most of the PHC facilities in Nigeria cannot provide essential healthcare services.
The authors also stated in the study that many of the PHCs in the country are having “issues such as poor staffing, inadequate equipment, poor distribution of health workers, poor quality of health-care services, poor condition of infrastructure, and lack of essential drug supply.”
Though published five years ago, the findings of the study still mirror the state of things in PHC around the nation as seen at Arigbajo Primary Healthcare Centre.
Any visitor that entered the centre will know right from being welcomed by the unhinged entry gates that the Arigbajo PHC was begging for help.
For instance, only three flattened beds are found in the ward. The fans, as well as the light bulbs, are not functioning. The ceiling in some areas of the PHC had also broken.
However, a major topic of discussion among the health workers of the PHC during the visit of PUNCH HealthWise was the controversy surrounding the N7m drugs budgeted for the centre.
One of the health workers on duty (name withheld), acknowledged that the drugs have been received but locked up.
She further said they were not permitted to use the drugs, adding that the real value of the supplied drugs was still a subject of debate.
According to her, the drugs that were supplied are not worth the N7m claimed, noting that the drugs were locked up and will be audited.
She said, “I learned the contractor was given seven million to supply us drugs but the drugs they supplied are not up to N7m.
“That is why we were informed not to use them until they come from the local to conduct a proper audit.
“They said they want to come and audit the total amount of drugs before we start using them.”
While the audit is yet to be done, two months after delivery, the workers fear that some of the drugs would have expired by the time the audit is done. According to them, some of the drugs supplied were close to expiration.
Corroborating the allegation, the health worker in charge of the pharmacy of the PHC, Mrs. Ishola, who wasn’t available when the facility was visited, while speaking with PUNCH HealthWise over the phone said the drugs delivered were not worth N7m.
She also alleged that some of the drugs delivered to the PHC were meant for higher health institutions and not a primary health centre.
“Yes, the drugs are not up to seven million and some of them will expire soon.
“We cannot even use some of the medical supplies because they are for secondary health care institutions and our own is just a primary health centre.
“In our PHC, we can only deal with children, pregnant women and immunisation for the children,” she said, stressing that some of the drugs are not useful.
When pressed to give further details on the drugs supplied, Mrs. Ishola refused saying, “I am just an ordinary worker.”
She asked our correspondent to visit the facility next Tuesday to get the list of the drugs and to also see the drugs in contention.
But when our correspondent visited the PHC on the scheduled Tuesday, the workers suddenly became tight-lipped, directing all inquiries to the Chief Pharmacist of the Local Government, Dr. Ota Bakare.
Chief Pharmacist denies all allegations<
However, Dr. Bakare denied all allegations insisting that the drugs received were N7m.
This claim, however, conflicts with what Hon. Ishiaka Ibrahim said and when pressed on the conflicting information concerning the drugs, Bakare said, “Whether there is controversy or no controversy the person that can give you anything on that will be the lawmaker.
“He is the one that knows what he was supplying to us and things like that. So, if there is any controversy he is the one that can clear it.
“So, the list that was given is what I got, so I am not sure if this is what is supposed to be supplied or not.
“It is the lawmaker that can explain that”.
When our correspondent inquired again to know if the drugs were locked up, he then said, “It was not locked up. The honourable has not handed over the drugs to us. That is why it was kept, not locked up.
According to him, “The drugs were not locked up. The drugs were supplied but the honourable has not handed over the drugs to us officially, that is why they were kept, not locked up.
Our correspondent asked when the PHC would start using the drugs but the head pharmacist of Ewekoro Local Government refused to answer and ended the call.
Workers at the PHC said they are not entirely handicapped by the challenge, noting that they get drugs monthly from the local The drugs are paid for at the end of every month, they said.
Attempts to get the reaction of the Ogun state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Tomi Coker was not successful as she is yet to respond to the text messenger sent after calls to her cell were not answered.
However, a source at the National Primary Health Care Development Agency Headquarters told our correspondent to contact the Ogun State Executive Secretary of the NPHCDA for any issues relating to the PHC in the state.
Attempts to reach the Executive Secretary, NPHCDA Ogun State to comment on the allegations were also futile.
Contact: <[email protected]<