Doctors take blueprint on how to improve healthcare in Nigeria to Senate
President NMA, Dr. Kayode Obembe, in an address to the Senate President during a courtesy visit by executive members of the Association, over the weekend, shared NMA’s thoughts and aspirations on how to strengthen the health sector and leverage on abundant potentials in the country.
Obembe said that greater investment of resources in health care delivery of the country would ultimately result in bumper economy and therefore well-being of the nation. He called on the Senate President to use his strategic clout and good offices to actualise this deserved dream of change through a pragmatic budgetary intervention onto the health sector.
Over the years a call has been made on the need towards prioritization of health financing to ensure that a minimum of 15 per cent of the Nigerian budget is committed to developing our health care system. It will be recalled that Nigeria hosted the year 2000 meeting of African Union (AU) in Abuja where this treaty was signed in line with the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO). This agreement has never been met over the years as Nigeria’s health budget continued to hover between four to seven per cent of the national budget.
Obembe said the National Health Act has made provisions for significant improvement in health financing, particularly at the primary health care level and it will be a great deal of service to the nation if the National Assembly under Saraki’s leadership makes it a duty to ensure that the funds specified in the Act are made available annually to the various agencies that will deploy them for the purposes specified in the Act.
He said both the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) have great roles to play in the utilization of the funds to make quality health care accessible to the poorest of the poor and rural dwellers. “We therefore, passionately appeal to you to drive this process through necessary legislative processes,” Obembe said.
On the reversal of brain drain in the health sector, Obembe said it is no longer news that Nigeria can boast of having some of the best medical doctors and other healthcare workers practising all over the globe in revered health facilities.
The NMA President said it is also true that the country looses up to N1 billion dollars per year on health tourism; most often on illnesses that could be comfortably handled here at a lower cost and convenience of the patients especially for follow up appointments.
He said what is needed from the government to reverse this trend is appropriate regulatory and enabling environment for professionals in the diaspora to return home to contribute their quota to national development, and in addition, a special intervention funding facilities such as done for aviation; rice, cocoa and cassava farming; automobiles; textiles; other manufacturing sectors; and even the banking sector bail outs, accessible at single digits interest rates to enhance investments into the health sector could also assist in attracting back our very talented and highly skilled diasporans who are very willing to return to their father land.
Obembe said the NMA has kept a robust tracking and interaction of their colleagues in diaspora via their parent associations such as ANPA in the United States (US), MANSSAG in the United Kingdom (UK), and NICAMP in Canada.
He said the Public Private Partnership (PPP) option of innovative financing of the public health sector adopted in the 2006 National Health Policy should be vigorously implemented as already outlined in the policy document to enhance qualitative health care at affordable costs. Obembe said this is what countries like India did and today, the Indian nation is reaping from that wise investment to the tune of over $250 million annually from Nigeria alone.
Obembe said the NMA under his leadership is very burdened by the skewed distribution of health manpower against the rural dwellers that constitute about 65 per cent of the population of the country. He said this is caused by the drifting of available health work forces away from the hinter lands where their services are very much in need due to poor living conditions and great disparity in remunerations and other conditions of service.
The NMA President said it is their considered opinion that conditions of service in the health sector be made uniform and universally applicable across the states of the federation even from the ward health unit levels.
The NMA President called on Saraki to use his legislative prowess to ensure that the agreements reached between NMA and Federal Government of Nigeria last year be respected including but not limited to the payment of the 10 months arrears of Relativity /sundries stemming from the errors in the emoluments of the medical personnel in the country.