By Donald Ugwu
Three female volunteers in the N-Health programme have established a mini laboratory at the Primary Health Centre, Otokutu, Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta.
The volunteers are Jennifer Angese (2013 Pharmacology graduate of Delta State University); Mary James (2011 Microbiology graduate of Unijos); and Harriet Azurundu (2001, BSc Microbiology – Imo State University – and 2008 MLSc –UPTH).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trio contributed money to purchase the equipment and establish the laboratory in April, barely four months of their deployment to the PHC to provide medical outreach to the rural community.
Narrating their experiences when the Monitoring and Evaluation team of N-Power visited the centre, James said they felt pity for the community which had the centre for long but travelled far to access medical facilities.
She said that rather than seek deployment they made contributions from their token to purchase the equipment in bits in order to make meaningful impact in the community.
According to her, the equipment comprising both electrical and manual types, are worth about N100,000 but that some tests are delayed in the centre due to epileptic power and lack of alternative power source.
She said that her colleagues were teaching in private schools and receiving pittance prior to the N-power job, but noted that the scheme had offered them the opportunity to practice their profession and gain experience.
James said the community was excited about the development but had not made additional input due to poverty, “but we hope someone, someday will do that for the sake of the rural people’’.
She said that due to epileptic power the lab always concluded the samples tests, and issued the results the same day of collection.
She said some patients were referred to bigger facilities if they had to wait for the results for more than a day, “but we work for as long as possible to make patients’ results ready’’.
Azurundu, another volunteer, added that since the provision of the laboratory no fewer than 70 patients including pregnant women, the aged and children had their blood, urine and other samples tested for proper diagnosis and treatment.
“We assumed duty in February and since we discovered that there was no laboratory section here we decided to set up one to assist in proper diagnosis and treatment of patients.
“The lab has been of great help; it has improved the services of the health workers in the health centre.
“Since we started lab tests we have had almost 70 patients benefitting but we have attended to others without actually putting them in our records,’’ Azurundu said.
She said that apart from the help that the people needed it had been her dream to be able to touch lives in one way or the other and “N-Power has given me that room and opportunity to touch lives’’.
On her part, Angese noted that the patients were often tested free or charged only 50 per cent of the cost of the examination to encourage others to access adequate medicare due to poverty.
The volunteers thanked President Muhammadu Buhari and Acting President Yemi Osinbajo for initiating the N-Power programme because it had touched so many lives.
They acknowledged that from the stipends they were able also to help in family upkeep and support their siblings in their education.
The volunteers said they were not expecting the federal government to terminate the programme after two years, but rather to strengthen it because “we will not like to go back after two years doing nothing.
“We hope it will continue in a better way.’’
NAN also reports that the laboratory is equipped with syringes, piercing needles, various reagents, glucometer, cotton swaps, feed stains, oil immersion, microscope, mirror, plastercine, capillary tubes.
Others are blood-count equipment, methylated spirit, HIV reagents, puppets, EDTA collection bottles, hand gloves, wither kits, counting chamber, improvised slide racks, an electric-powered centrifuge as well as a hand-powered centrifuge.
Mr John James, the husband of Mary James, who visited the centre at the time of the monitoring, thanked the federal government for its transparency in the recruitment of the volunteers.
John, a Veterinary graduate-turned logistics specialist, who lost his job in December due to the death of his employer, said that the wife had been sustaining the family from her stipend.
“N-Power is another door that has opened for our family and I encourage the volunteers not to focus attention on the stipend but ensure that they become true professionals during the two-year programme.
“I thank God Almighty and his instrument, President Muhammadu Buhari, and pray that God grants him sound health and also his Vice, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, for this programme,’’ he said.
The Presidential aide on Job Creation, Mr Afolabi Imoukhuede, expressed gratitude to the volunteers for their painstaking effort to live out the dream of the programme by impacting on the society.
He urged them to continue in their stride as by their conduct they had opened new vistas in their lives.
Imoukhuede also expressed gladness with the performance of the volunteers in Nana Model Secondary and Primary Schools, Warri, and those at the Central Hospital Warri.
However, he told the Medical Director of the Warri Hospital to cancel the one-day off granted to the volunteers weekly since the programme was a full time volunteer scheme without shifts, night or weekend duty.
At a private investor integrated fish farm in Warri, Imoukhuede thanked the proprietor for making the massive facility available for the N-Agro participants to acquire more practical knowledge on fisheries.
An N-Agro volunteer, Mrs Ese Adiomamore, told NAN that the scheme was a sure way of achieving the self-sufficiency in food production and economic diversification programme of the present administration. (NAN)