Traditional Medicine vs. Modern Policy: Can Assiga New Town Keep Local Deliveries Alive?

Patapata Health Post in Assiga New Town, Yakurr Local Government Area (LGA) of Cross River State serves five communities – Lefanghi, Okwalike, Patapata, Ikwekali, and Lewong.

After conducting deliveries alongside other cardinal duties since its inception in 2014 when Tulsi Chanrai Foundation (TCF) commissioned the facility, in 2021 the State Government directed all health posts in Cross River to stop conducting childbirth. Still, it should refer to their mother’s Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) or the nearest general hospital.

The directive dished out of the desire to safeguard the life of the pregnant woman and her unborn child or children because of the unhealthy conditions most health posts operate in, and the fact that they lack other basic amenities has wiped away smiles from the faces of many mothers in Assiga New Town.

Before the notice, the facility was widely patronized by pregnant women for antenatal and especially delivery due to the level of care they get from the facility manager, Mr. Oden Ina, Community Health Worker (CHEW).

Mr. Oden, 52 years of age in 7 years from 2014 to 2021 successfully carried out 36 deliveries without any complications from his facility.

State Of Patapata Health Post

Located beside Deeper Life Bible Church and opposite the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria, the Patapata health post operates from a two-room apartment donated by the community in 2014.

The parlor of the unpainted building is used as a waiting station, nursing station, and consulting room. One of the two rooms is used as a labor room and ward, and the other is used as a store for medical supplies, and water.

In the labor/ward, there is only a bed in bad condition and needs replacement.

Patapata health post is not connected to a public power source despite having a 500kva transformer beside it and has no alternate source of power.

The only source of water is rain and a free borehole that is about 10 kilometers away from the facility.

It has no toilet but a nearby bush for defecation and medical supplies are constantly in shortage.

Death Of A Mother And Child

Mr. Oden Ina, Patapata health post facility manager spoke to TheInvestigator about an allegation that he mismanaged labor leading to the death of a mother and child.

Taking a deep breath he said sometime in 2021 “During the time of Nkoyo Oka, she’s late. She was the Yakurr Local Government PHC Director.

“She called me to her office to say that such an event (referring to the death of a mother and child during delivery) happened in my facility, I said no, can you send somebody to come and investigate if it is true or false?”

Furthermore, he revealed that he followed up on his request to be investigated on five different occasions, but he got no response.

Mr. Oden Ina.

He added, “It was when the Focal Person returned from their meeting I was told that any labor I am having I should be referring to the PHC. From then I have not handled labor issues”.

When contacted to verify if any death had been recorded in the Patapata health post because of the negligence of Mr. Oden, Chief Enang Usang Agwo debunked such an allegation.

According to him, such an allegation is a blackmail tactic. “There was no recorded death since that health post was set up, no death, I live close to the health post.

“If you want to blackmail somebody, that is one of the things they will put forward, that health post has never suffered any death of mother and child, if it did we would have raised the alarm”.

Furthermore, Chief Enang said, “I don’t think the person is right, it has never happened within the community. I would have known”.

Mr. Obangha Effiong Ofem, Focal Person for PHC Assiga when called over the phone by TheInvestigator about the allegation, said it was not true.

In his words, “There was nothing, I don’t know why they stopped him from delivery, you know Patapat is a health post, it doesn’t have a labor room there that is the reason I think they stopped him from delivery, it is just a health post.

“If somebody died that should be when I had left but when I was there nobody died, all I know is there is no labor room. If somebody died I will tell you as I’m talking to you now. It was a mere allegation”.

The Focal Person who is now in Ekori added “The environment is not conducive for delivery to be conducted there, there is no facility for delivery there, I can stand by that but say somebody died, no, nobody died. I have been out of that place for two years now”.

The Love, Call For Refurbishing And Upgrade Of Patapata Health Post

Mr. Oden Ina, Patapata health post facility manager from separate interviews with locals by TheInvestigator is loved by many parents for the love, dedication, and experience with which he attends to them, especially during labor.

Chief Enang Usang Agwo said, “That young man is helping a lot, anytime you call on him he is ever ready to serve the purpose for which he was called. The facility should be renovated, upgraded, and materials supported since the man is ever ready and available”.

Mrs. Blessing Odey, Mrs. Mary Ojubi, and Mrs. Blessing Usang all have four children each and are part of the 36 delivered successfully by Mr. Oden in the Patapata health post.

In a witty statement, Mrs. Mary Ojubi said “The man is very good”.

On her part Mrs. Blessing Usang said, “The place is fine, the man takes good care of us”.

While Mrs. Blessing Odey maintained, “There was no challenge in my four deliveries, everything went smoothly because he is close to me and he is a father to everybody”.

The women with four children each also feel sad that the facility does not handle labor cases anymore, and called for its renovation and upgrade.

Mr. Oden Ina spoke to TheInvestigator about his passion for the job. He said his passion is what makes him stand out.

His words, “I love my job, health is an area where only passion leads. Childbirth is something you don’t play with, I try to make sure nothing goes wrong, I have children too”.

The front view of Patapata Health Post in Assiga New Town, Yakurr Local Government Area.

A public health expert, Odenke-Odemonke Ibiang was contacted by TheInvestigator to ascertain the impact of the policy restricting some facilities from carrying out deliveries and the yearning of the women in Assiga New Town, she said the policy is for the best of all.

“Policies are meant to mitigate some unforeseen events. I think why they are complaining is because those people charge them less, and are closer to them,” she said.

On the lack of improvement in many health facilities, she said “And those are the things we do research for, we talk about the cost of transportation, and convenience too, we keep doing these researches but there is no improvement in our healthcare facilities.

“That is the problem in Nigeria, you can’t blame us or the people but the system. And when the system makes rules that don’t favor the masses or they don’t consider the masses it becomes a problem to them and they begin to complain, its a favorable decision”.

We Want To Increase Number Of Functional Health Centres To 392 – Commissioner

The Cross River State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Henry Ayuk spoke exclusively to TheInvestigator in his office.

He appreciated communities’ efforts in ensuring they get comprehensive healthcare.

Dr. Ayuk revealed that there are plans to double the number of functional healthcare centers across the state.

He said there are “about 1,047 Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) facilities in the State and are graded into different groups. There are 196 functional healthcare centers, one per ward supported by Basic Healthcare Fund (BHF).

“In this administration, we want to move the number twice, we expect that in the next year”. Adding that “We are using those sites to implement free medical services for pregnant women, children under five, and the elderly above seventy”.

Furthermore, he said “Assiga is a ward and they have a functional health center in addition to the health post, the best we can achieve for now is to improve the capacity of any healthcare worker there to be able to identify conditions that cannot be managed by him and he refers them appropriately.

“Yes, there is a need to have experience to guide us for the future but we need the experience backed up with theory which is having some basic qualification before you would be allowed to practice that experience.

“For now, the CHEW training does not give them the necessary drive to conduct certain services without supervision, so we would need to have a health facility where there is supervision”.

The Health Commissioner went on to disclose that “We are also working to have midwives posted to each of the local governments to work if there is a need to conduct delivery why not if there is the appropriately skilled staff”.

In appreciation of community efforts, he said “I appreciate community efforts, we can’t do much without community participation, they are doing well, ours is to provide them with some technical guidelines”.

This story was produced for the Frontline Investigative Program and supported by the Africa Data Hub and Orodata Science.

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