Unveiling the Truth: Free Delivery Options in Anambra State

Last year, as an effort to cushion the effects of subsidy removal and economic hardships in the country, Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo introduced the free delivery scheme which allows all pregnant women registered in government hospitals and three hundred and thirty primary health centers across the state to enjoy free antenatal and delivery services.

Afam Obidike, the commissioner of health reinforced this in his speech and urged the public to report anyone or any PHC that tries to collect money from them throughout the period of this scheme. At first, the government promised to provide the necessary equipment and resources needed accomplish this goal. But, the shock came when the said resources arrived at the PHCs. The package contains three stitching equipment, two syringes, a pack of drip amongst other medical equipment that are insufficient.

Francisca, a public health nurse and officer-in-charge (OIC) of a primary health center in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State narrated how the free delivery system is causing conflicts between them and patients due to lack of basic resources needed to handle free delivery. According to her, they have to purchase these necessary drugs and tools with their money and getting the patients to understand the situation on ground and pay for these expenses becomes a problem. In her words,

“They said they are providing free delivery but don’t provide enough equipment to do that. How can you promise free delivery and tell people to report any case of “extortion” but go ahead to supply just one drip and two syringes for a whole month?”

“When you buy these things with your money, the patients will refuse to pay and report you to the authorities”.

She went ahead to narrate a story of one lady who gave birth to twins but unfortunately lost one to hard labour. Due to complications faced, extra medications were used to save her life. The problem began when the husband was told to pay 5,000 to cover the cost of the extra medications. He got angry and reported the case to the governor accusing them of extortion.

Ngozi Chukwu, another public health nurse and officer-in-charge (OIC) of Comprehensive Primary Health Center in Oyi Local Government Area of Anambra State, complained bitterly of the same. “The last time they supplied us drugs and equipment for free delivery was in October last year. Up till now, we are expected to carry out free delivery even without drugs and equipments”

“The pregnant women came here without money and most times without even basic delivery necessities like pads and baby clothes. And because we cannot abandon them, we go ahead to provide these things but when they are told to cover the cost of these things, they report you”

“It is a difficult situation and it creates problems for us. If possible, Soludo should abolish the free delivery scheme. We are suffering”

Asides the inadequate supply of resources, there is a lack of adequate staff to assist with the deliveries. Gloria Okafor, the OIC of Igbu PHC lamented on how she is the only staff at the PHC. According to her, running the affairs of the PHC is hectic. She has tried employing staff with her salary but they always steal from her.

“The last time a proper employment was done was in 2014, the others depends on your connection”

“The work is too much and since I can’t get a trusted staff, I have decided to always lock the PHC was am not available”

Francisca Okafor also complained of the same thing. In her case, she has two staff members she pays from her salary to help out in the PHC.

This information contradicts the Governor’s speech of having employed additional five hundred staff to help provide free and quality healthcare in Anambra State. The situation on ground seems otherwise as most PHCs visited in the state lack enough staff and the few available are being sponsored by the community. The staff all admitted that the last massive employment was done in 2014.

Anambra State Primary Health Care Development (ASPHCD) has received the fund of 813milion from BHCPF between 2020 and 2022 and yet nothing reflects this data in the state of the PHCs.

In Oko PHC, the labour ward has two dilapidated beds and no bed pan for delivery. In Ifite-awkuzu PHC, there are leaking roofs, St. John De Baptist PHC operates inside a small room donated by the church, Igbu PHC operates inside an uncompleted building while the ndiukwuenu has no functional PHC as the one they had, has been abandoned due to security challenges.

Although the beneficiaries of the free delivery scheme appreciate the initiative, the nurses and staff carry the responsibility of providing this free delivery from their pockets while also smiling to avoid the threat of losing their jobs.

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

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