C’River Primary Health system under Ekpenyong – the story so far

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Upon assumption of office on January 6th, 2020, Dr Janet Ekpenyong, Director-General, the Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency begun leveraging on the gains of her predecessors by expanding the Agency’s outreach through the rapid delivery of healthcare services.

Outside its primary mandate of providing quality and affordable healthcare to the population especially the grassroots, she has touched other critical aspects of ensuring optimal functionality of the 196 primary healthcare centres across the 196 political Wards of the state.

Her strides thus far have been achieved using 3 basic frameworks – the primary health centres, the Health Surveillance Monitoring/Evaluation Teams and the Comprehensive Data Centres. Dr Ekpenyong’s concept prioritizes timely and quality medicare for children from ages 0-5, women and the aged, ensuring communities have functional health post with several people-oriented medical outreach providing immunization aid, family planning services, HIV counseling and testing including ensuring that infrastructurally, the PHCs are in stable condition.

In just six months of holding office, she undertook and commissioned 4 additional PHCs (1 in Yala, 1 in Akamkpa and 2 in Ikom), including revitalising 2 PHCs in Calabar South, and 1 in the Municipal Area.

Under her stewardship, Cross River State has maintained its place as the best Primary Healthcare Agency. Its facilities are the most kitted, supervision is timely and grassroots mobilisation and professionalism is top notch. These were the indices that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency used to rate the CRSPHCDA best in the country. And the announcement of this landmark feat was made during the working visit of the Director-General of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Faisal Shuaib to the state earlier this month.

Despite being in the era of the rapid spreading and difficult-to-control Coronavirus pandemic, which has threatened clinical activities, maternal newborn and child health ante-natal services have gone on unhindered, her team of Community Health Extension Workers (CHEW) have been all about the place encouraging pregnant mother’s to make PHCs at their localities their first point of call. During such awareness campaigns, the women are left with palliatives packages provided by the Agency.

In partnership with United Purpose, a Non-Governmental Organisation, capacity building workshops for health workers and midwives in the 196 wards in furtherance of the Universal Health Coverage goals has remained consistent, including the stationing of functional hand washing centres in various wards of the state in strict adherence to precautionary COVID-19 measures. The Agency has undertaken provision of HIV/AIDS kits, including provision of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) drugs to carriers of the disease, and the distribution of hundreds of thousands of insecticide treated mosquito nets to the rural population.

Also, under her care, the state government in collaboration with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) through the office of Community and Social Development Agency (CSDA) is prioritising building healthcare infrastructure in selected communities across the state. It is also mounting serious “awareness against public health hazards” health sign posts.

Save for the sudden emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic, arrangements had been concluded for the state’s Health Insurance Scheme (Ayade-care) to commence enrollment on the 7th of April, 2020 in line with the World Health Day, and on implementation, PHCs in the state would benefit from the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHF) accrued to states from the federal government.

Provision of foodstuffs, Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs), facemasks, hand sanitizers and other health commodities to cushion effect of the Coronavirus has also been topmost in CRSPHCDA’s agenda under Dr Ekpenyong. In addition, the campaign against Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTD) in Odukpani the LGA with highest cases of tapeworm infection and elephantiasis saw the immunization and deworming of children to promote good health and personal hygiene.

The primary health centres in synergy with the secondary and tertiary health institutions is set up to provide a pyramid of continuous acceleration of medicare. The PHC provides the basic foundational setting for handling health issues which caters for about 70% of health cases, with more serious cases been referred to the secondary and tertiary facilities.

With the training of Community Health Extension Workers and the Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers, the PHCs are equipped as the first line centres that they are, to curtail mild cases of suspected Coronavirus outbreak before referring such to the secondary and tertiary health institutions.

According to the Director-General, all these have been possible as a result of the inspiration of the pragmatic and visionary, pro-health Governor of Cross River State, Senator Prof (Sir) Ben Ayade’s commitment to providing quality Healthcare to Cross Riverians and the wonderful support received from foreign and local partners.

© Eugene Upah is the Snr Special Assistant to Cross River Governor Ben Ayade on Public Communications

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