COVID-19: NGO canvasses more responsibilities for PHCs

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AN NGO, South Saharan Social Development Organisation (South Saharan), has advocated for more responsibilities for Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) as the COVID-19 continues to spread across the country.

The Executive Director of the NGO, Dr Stanley Ilechukwu, made the call in a statement on Wednesday in Enugu.

Ilechukwu, a medical doctor, urged the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) and state governments to commence full scale capacity-building and training of all workers in PHCs on COVID-19.

He urged the government to provide incentives and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enable PHC workers to join in test collection and contact tracing.

Ilechukwu added this was also important as the nation’s tertiary and secondary health facilities were getting overstretched by the pandemic.

According to him, PHCs available in most communities must be fully incorporated in the fight in terms of testing and test collection, sending test samples to COVID-19 diagnostic facilities as well as contact tracing.

He said that PHCs should have capacity to take care of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients that might go for isolation in their homes with medical monitoring.

This, he said, would save time, money and logistics of moving a “healthy patient’’ to isolation and treatment centres.

“The testing rate is alarmingly low considering there is evidence that community spread is widespread in some parts of the country and it is doubtful that current testing capacity would be sufficient to test and trace all suspects.

“Tracing is also made difficult due to the backlash from the prolonged economic shutdown necessitated by the pandemic.

“Nigeria is a country with poor economic indices – and a poverty rate of 40.1 per cent, and as such it would be difficult to sustain a prolonged shutdown affecting the livelihood of millions without risking mass protests.

“Given these realities, the best strategy that can be employed by NCDC is targeted testing approach that does not restrict the ability of most citizens to carry out their functions while devolving and decentralising COVID-19 management and contact tracing to the nearest PHC.

“While NPHCDA has commenced capacity-building of PHC personnel, it is pertinent that testing is ramped up.

” Alternatively, symptomatic screening algorithm with moderate to high index of sensitivity for COVID-19 is utilised as the first line of management,’’ he said.

Ilechukwu said that the use of GSM technology would be the best to report suspected cases given Nigeria’s GSM penetration of 97.45 per cent.

“However, a call centre with the capacity to receive the numerous daily calls is currently lacking.

” The NCDC call centre is currently overwhelmed with calls, with citizens complaining of their inability to reach the NCDC despite calling numerous times.

“While COVID-19 apps are a good development, the number of citizens with internet access is limited.

“Finally, walk-in visits for screening without a triage mechanism might also overwhelm already fragile health systems given the poor doctor-patient and nurse-patient ratios in the country.

“An alternative screening method accessible to a vast majority of Nigerians prevents both the NCDC and the state health system from being overwhelmed.

” It can be easily scaled across the country and has to be designed and operationalised at the shortest possible time as every day lost further exacerbates COVID-19 community spread, putting more lives at risk,’’ he added. (NAN)

– May 27, 2020 @ 14:49 GMT |

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