Features  |  Health  

Fresh move to revitalise Nigerian healthcare system

By Adaku Onyenucheya   |   15 May 2017   |   3:58 am  

The Nigerian government, which said it was making effort to revamp the healthcare system allocated 4.17 per cent of the annual budget to healthcare in 2017, which is about N304 billion (less than $1 billion) for over 170 million people.

Stakeholders in Nigeria have welcomed the global call for public private partnership to revamp the healthcare industry in order to achieve the third Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) of the Universal Health Coverage.

The national healthcare system of Nigeria is faced with many challenges, which include, poor funding and investments, unlimited access to healthcare due to inequitable distribution of facilities, lack of adequate internal technology infrastructure, high operational cost, manual submission and processing of medical information among others.

The Nigerian government, which said it was making effort to revamp the healthcare system allocated 4.17 per cent of the annual budget to healthcare in 2017, which is about N304 billion (less than $1 billion) for over 170 million people. This shows that government spends about N1, 688 ($5.5) for a whole year on each citizen; an unfeasible amount needed to treat a single malaria of a citizen for a whole year, whereas South Africa allocates seven times as much and Angola three times as much.

With these, private stakeholders converged to review the possibilities of assisting the government to reduce the burden, which have led to a medical tourism, one of the major contributors to foreign exchange depletion, to the tune of $1 billion annually, by conservative estimates.

The Head, Health and Insurance, Interswitch, Uzor Okonmah, at a private stakeholders meeting on partnership against malaria to commemorate the World Malaria Day, said there was need for private stakeholders to come together and think of innovative ways to eliminate certain diseases, starting with malaria, that has declined in its prevalence.

She stressed that there is much needed to reform the health care industry, especially the facilities and services, adding that “for the managed healthcare industry to thrive, and ensure enrollees are adequately cared for, Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), Medical Scheme Managers (MSM) and service providers will have to focus their attention on their core functions of keeping enrollees healthy, claim adjudication, resource planning, out source non-core functions claims payment, data hosting and mining, among others.”

She noted that funding and inadequate data information due to unavailability of technology has been the major challenges facing the country’s health sector, which has deprive the government of keeping tab with the exact health record in the country.

“Funding and technology has been the major challenges, the government does not budget a lot for the health sector, we get a lot of this money coming from outside the country and other agencies, but the money is not used efficiently because we don’t have the right technology to make us efficient.

“We called on private company/organization to see how we could derive the funding gap, how we could use technology to make the health sector more efficient, how we could make sure that we don’t waste money and have the right technology that gives us data and allows us make the right decisions in terms of how we spend money in the health sector. Private sector being the major funder of health in this market will drive access to funds.”

With the theme “Harnessing Innovative Technology to Transform Malaria Care in Nigeria”, she said due to lack of technology which has limited access to data, Interswitch has partnered with FIO Corporation, a Canadian based health technology company, to strengthen healthcare delivery and management in Nigeria.

The partnership would provide practical and sustainable solutions to challenges in the health care system, by empowering healthcare workers of all skill levels to provide quality care and automatically capture data as part of their routine workflow, as well as enabling healthcare managers and other stakeholders to make immediate and impactful use of this data.

With the advent of medical technology, the two partners tend to bridge the gap in manpower and inadequate facilities available.Studies show that in 2015, Nigeria had about 35, 000 doctors, whereas it needed 235, 000 medical doctors for its population in order to meet the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of one doctor per 600 citizens. In 2017, it is presumed that Nigeria has one doctor to over 5, 000 citizens.

Meanwhile, healthcare facilities in Nigeria have obsolete equipment; for example, Nigeria has seven radiotherapy machines for over 170 million people, and specifically for the over two million cancer patients in the country. Information shows that only two of those machines work at a time for many years for the two million people who need them.

Some of these medical equipment worn out and break down most times, a situation that has caused the death of many Nigerians, who would have survived, if only modern and new equipment were made available.

The Vice President, FIO Corporation, Mr. Hayim Raclaw, told The Guardian that the organization focuses on uplifting the healthcare system of both the public and private sector in general.

He said the onus of the healthcare management rests on the private stakeholders, saying “Private health providers need to become more efficient, and deliver higher quality of healthcare to the benefit of their ventures and businesses, and to the general public.”

Raclaw, who stressed on malaria elimination, said technology has provided platforms where interventions, be it preventive or post, can be properly implemented, especially with the appropriate data, which makes medical record to be evaluated and solutions taken.

He maintained that all it requires is to properly train and support healthcare workers, who are key to strengthening health system, urging the government to implement policies and infrastructures that would revive the health sector, as health is the number on priority of the people.

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