Soludo’s Free Antenatal Service: Implementing Officers Share Mixed Feelings

By Michael Nnebife

As Free Antenatal and Delivery Services initiated by the Anambra State Governor, Prof Chukwuma Soludo, for women in the state enters its second month, some officers in charge of the Primary Healthcare Centres in the capital territory communities have expressed mixed feelings of joy for the success the policy is recording, and anger over what seems to be mischief-making on the part of higher authorities representing the centres before the state government.

Recall that Governor Soludo, on August 2023, announced free antenatal care and delivery for all pregnant women resident in the state as part of the efforts of his administration to cushion the effect of the present economic difficulty in the country following the removal of fuel subsidy by the Federal Government.

Last week, Fides visited the Primary Healthcare Centres in Umudioka, Awka and Okpuno Towns, to ascertain how the programme had fared in the areas in its first month of existence.

At the Primary Healthcare Centre, Okpuno, an insider and top health official who wanted neither her name to appear in press nor to speak to the press, alleged mistrust and conspiracy against those presumed to be coordinating officials for the policy.

According to her, the officials were deliberately refusing to present the true reports of the realities on ground to the government, with the aim of achieving their selfish political interests.

When she was persuaded to name the officials and the realities on the ground, she insisted, ‘I don’t want to speak on this matter as I said.

‘We’ve submitted a series of reports, but they don’t want to tell the Commissioner (for Health) the truth because of their political ambition.’

However, at the Primary Healthcare Centre, Umudioka, Awka, it was a totally different scenario with praises for the government for coming up with the policy.

Speaking to the press, the Officer-in-Charge of the facility, Mrs Patricia Ezeh, narrated the success stories the policy had so far recorded in the facility in a very short period of a month.

Mrs Ezeh said, ‘The programme is moving well. Many pregnant women are coming – their number keeps on increasing.

‘Before, we used to have five or six pregnant women in a month; but last month that we started this Free Antenatal Care and Free Delivery, we had eight pregnant women.

‘This month, we are expecting to have up to 15 and more as many of them who had registered with private hospitals have realized the benefits and are now coming here.

‘We are very happy. Yesterday we delivered three; the day before yesterday, we delivered two. They all went home without paying a dime.

‘In fact, they were visibly happy, praising the governor,’ Ezeh said.

While commending Governor Soludo for initiating the policy, Ezeh added that necessary materials such as laboratory kits, drugs, among others, were also provided by the government.

Ezeh, who expressed the readiness of the facility to perform optimally as the number of the enrollees of the pregnant women continues to increase, however, identified inadequate structural space and insufficient personnel as major challenges facing the facility, adding that the facility used volunteer workers to ensure it delivered.

She therefore appealed to the government to employ more personnel, expand the existing building structure, and erect staff quarters for the facility to enable it to sustain the increasing tempo the free antenatal care and delivery policy was making.