Healthcare Hero Boosts Availability of Essential Medicines in West Itam Community

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July 13, 2022
Lead Paragraph/Summary

Back in 2016, Primary Healthcare Center (PHC) West Itam in the Itu Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom, Nigeria grappled with challenges ranging from inadequate staff to poor uptake of healthcare services due to an inadequate supply of medicines, healthcare personnel, and basic infrastructure. Mercy Bassey, Officer in Charge at PHC West Itam, could only describe the state of the healthcare center as “comatose”. The facility lacked power supply, basic medicines, and consumables making it more likely to see community residents farming in front of the building instead of receiving care inside. Dissatisfied with the situation, Mercy set out to make a change.

Overcoming Limitations

Thanks to support from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), PHC West Itam began to receive bi-monthly review meetings. During these meetings, Mercy gained access to mentoring and on-the-job training which included stock management and how to request resupply of health commodities. Deploying her creativity, inventory management tools, and skills received via mentorship, Mrs. Bassey mobilized resources, including a donation of $170 (N68,000) from the local Ward Development Committee (WDC), to start an indigenous Drug Revolving Fund (DRF) for essential health commodities, including malaria medicines. She contacted sales representatives of pharmaceutical companies and received seedstock on credit, paying off the company after the sale of the medicines.

For transparency and accountability, she reports every expenditure to the WDC during the community-facility monthly meetings, and ensures that commodities received from PMI and other donors are dispensed judiciously. Using the Inventory Control Cards (ICCs) received from PMI through the Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management project, she maintains good inventory management and differentiates donor commodities from the essential medicines managed under the DRF scheme.

Mrs. Bassey uses the profit from the DRF scheme to buy more medicines and to improve the quality of care at the health facility. The facility now transacts an average of N250,000 monthly ($644) and has engaged nine ad hoc staff. Not relenting, Mrs. Mercy elicited support from the Community Medicine Department at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital to send doctors thrice a week to treat patients and provide routine consulting services. With additional staff, the facility now provides 24-hour healthcare services. The profit from the DRF scheme further enabled Mrs. Bassey, with consultation from the WDC, to install a solar panel in the facility, to solve the electricity supply challenges.

The availability of essential medicines, improved commodity management practice, and additional personnel has increased the confidence and trust of the community in the facility. Health facility records show that the general attendance here increased by 61 percent, from an average of 989 between October to December 2016, to an average of 1,631 between May to July 2021. Expressing the community's delight, West Itam WDC Chairperson Obong Simon Enokan said: "Mrs. Bassey has changed the face of this facility since her resumption. Her creativity has saved the lives of thousands of women and children from malaria diseases in the West Itam community.”

PMI continues to provide technical assistance to state governments to strengthen the governance structures and financial safeguards for sustainable DRF operations and build the capacity of health officials in the areas of procurement, contract management, monitoring and supportive supervision, logistics management, human resources for supply chains, and other technical areas. The objective is to ensure the availability, accessibility, and affordability of quality health commodities, curtail dependence on external funding and reduce the budgetary burden on governments on medicines and medical consumables.
Mrs. Bassey has changed the face of this facility since her resumption. Her creativity has saved the lives of thousands of women and children from malaria diseases in the West Itam community