By Hassan Zaggi
The event was slated for 1:30pm on the fateful day, but by 12:30pm they were already entering the venue. They were dressed in their best clothes with full of smiles. Before the scheduled time, the hall was already filled to capacity.
It was an unusual gathering because health workers at the Primary Health Care (PHC) level are rarely recognized, appreciated and given awards for outstanding performances.
This is because in most parts of Nigeria, even though health workers at the PHC level do a lot of work and attend to larger population at both the rural and urban centres, their work is hardly being appreciated and recognized, let alone given any encouragement in the form of award.
Most of them work in hard-to- reach areas under harsh conditions with no one or institution in sight to boost their morale.
However, this was a peculiar day when the Aminu Magashi Garba (AMG) Foundation in collaboration with a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO)- theHeroic Discovery and Community Development center (HEDCODEC) organised an award ceremony for frontline health workers from Bwari and Gwagwalada Areas Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
AMG Foundation funded the award ceremony 100 per cent.
During the ceremony, 10 carefully selected healthcare workers from the two Area Councils were given awards for outstanding performances and dedication to service. They were given plagues, certificates and some undisclosed amount of cash.
The award ceremony was part of activities to mark the United Nations Public Service day.
The award ceremony, according to the organisers, was aimed at celebrating and encouraging the most outstanding healthcare front-liners who have demonstrated and achieved great excellence in their field of endeavor at the PHC level.
Speaking, the Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) who also doubles as the Chairman, Aminu Magashi Garba Foundation, Dr. Aminu Magashi, explained that he was earlier penciled for award by the management of HEDCODEC which he declined and instead, decided that front line healthcare workers at the PHC facility who are, according to him, the ‘unsung heroes’, should be recognized and encouraged for their service to humanity.
According to Dr. Magashi: “The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us so many things.
“During the lock down, I was privileged to go round to see what was happening. We saw the wonderful work health workers at the PHC facility level were doing. The health workers have been exposed to a lot of risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When it started, there was no Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs), many were using whatever comes their way for protection, gradually support started coming from the government and development partners.
“The COVID-19 has changed the way we think to understand that the health workers working at the PHC facility level are very key.
“Whatever any minister, commissioner or any government appointee can do to ensure that the health workers are properly taken care of should be done.”
While noting that the award ceremony has come to stay as it is going to be an annual event, Dr. Magashi disclosed that: “We started with Gwagwalada and Bwari Area Councils, by next year, we hope that all the six area councils will be included.”
He called on well-meaning Nigerians and philanthropists in all parts of the country to pick the idea and celebrate frontline health workers in their states and local governments.
On his part, the director of HEDCODEC, Kabir Abddulsalam, while commending the Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba (AMG) Foundation for funding the award ceremony, he explained that: “Our organization, as one of its core objectives, previously planned to present an award to Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba for his outstanding performance in the humanitarian sector.
“This was later remolded by the two organizations to become a sustainable mechanism for awarding outstanding front-line health workers in Nigeria who have demonstrated and achieved great excellence in their field of endeavor within Bwari and Gwagwalada Area Councils in Abuja.”
Explaining the process that led to the selection of the 10 awardees, he said: “As the median edition, out of 52 Primary Health Care centers in Bwari Local council and 33 PHC in Gwagwalada Local Council, we randomly selected 3 each. We made advocacy and submitted awareness letters to the facility for participation.
“We received a total of 64 entries for 5 categories from 6 facilities in Gwagawala and Bwari Area Council of the FCT.
“38 health care providers were shortlisted, after field data collection by the HEDCODEC award committee, the team was able to review it to 25 finalists before submitting the report to the Panelists after scaling to the final stage as graded based on merit after rigorous scrutiny by the Editorial Committee.”
As expected, a cross section of the awardees interviewed by our Correspondent expressed gratitude to the organisers and pledged to do more at their place of primary assignment for the growth of Nigeria’s health sector.
This is no doubt, a noble initiative that needs to be replicated in all parts of the country. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), the State Primary Health Care Agencies and indeed the Federal Ministry of Health, need to take a look at the idea and find a way of replicating it in a bigger way in order to boost the morale of the workers at the PHC level.
This, indeed, will give our frontline health workers at the PHC level across the country a sense of belonging, motivate them and give them the encouragement to defy all odds and provide services to Nigerians.
It is relevant to also call on health workers in the country to be more professional in their dealings with patients at the PHC level. A situation where health workers harass, intimidate that abandon patients at the PHC facility should be discouraged.