Minister expresses confidence in Yahale Ahmed-led panel report, improvement in 2015


NOTWITHSTANDING the concerns of allied health workers in the country, the minister of health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan has expressed a vote of confidence in the Yayale Ahmed-led panel report on inter-professional harmony in the health sector.

  Briefing reporters recently, Alhassan said that the provisions in the white paper, currently before the ministry, would enhance harmony among the professionals.

  Meanwhile, the minister has also assured that the health sector is poised for improvement in 2015, as he allayed fears that dwindling price of oil in the global market poses a threat to the health sector.

  It would be recalled that a coalition of allied health workers, led by the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) last week petitioned the Federal Government, rejecting the Presidential Committee of Experts on Professional Relationships in the Public Health Sector (YAPCEPRPH) report, citing that it was skewed in favour of medical doctors. 

  Alhassan, however, said that the report gives the best assurance to end inter-professional rancour and rivalry in the health system.

  According to him, “We are happy to announce that the committee has already submitted its white paper; a report we are confident will resolve most of the tensions in the sector and hopefully, we will not experience any strike this year,” he said.

  He said it was unfortunate that members of JOHESU were on strike currently, but was quick to add that it is part of the problems that the Yayale committee was setup to look into and would address all grey issues when it is set for implementation.

  On prospects for the health sector in 2015, Alhassan was optimistic that Nigerians would access better and improved quality health care, due to the various policies that were launched during the tenure of President Goodluck Jonathan to improve health services in the country. 

  He said: “Under the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan a lot has been achieved in the sector.”

   “We know we still have a lot to do to ensure that our health sector is recognized as one of the best in the world, but we are on track and are putting in place the right mechanism to move the sector forward.

  “With teamwork we eradicated Ebola which is still ravaging other African countries, we worked together with all health stakeholders at all levels of government to eliminate this from our shores.

  “This is the kind of team-spirit we are working to restore in the sector, one that is patient-centred. Presently, we have sent medical personnel to other countries to assist them battle Ebola, which is a plus to Jonathan’s intervention,” he said. 

  The minister added that a lot of good things had happened in the sector under this dispensation. “Look at the way the country has drastically reduced polio from 56 cases in 2013 to only six cases in 2014.”

   “We are on the way to becoming polio-free and getting our certification from the World Health Organisation (WHO) because we have not recorded any new polio cases for almost a year. But we are not resting on our oars. We have introduced various new vaccines to reduce infant diseases and deaths.” 

  Continuing, he said that with the passage of the National Health Bill into law, the sector also received a boost saying, “the passage is quite timely, because it would help in providing additional funds to the sector.”

  “This is even as oil prices has taken a downward slip. The Health Act would help cushion the effects of the hard times that the country will be experiencing due to the fall in oil prices.

  “We know that various financial experts have predicted that hard times are ahead for the country. We are already working with all our stakeholders to see how we can adjust our projections to aid us in planning better,” he said. 

  In the area of maternal and child health, Alhassan said further that the country had made a lot of improvements, with the introduced a lot of interventions at the Federal, State and Local Government Areas.

  Speaking on the intervention in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the health minister observed that in 2014, the federal government launched the elimination of the mother to child transmission.

  “The government has already declared a zero tolerance policy to new positive babies, and this is a big commitment and we are determined to see it through. We also intend to test more Nigerians and also put much more persons on drugs. These are all plans that are in top gear, a distortion in the plan might not augur well for the country.” 

   On malaria, Alhassan said that because of the huge funds lost to malaria, the government was investing heavily on preventive measures to curb the spread of the diseases.

  In the process, “more people will receive mosquito nets, massive distributions of the nets will be done nationwide as well as introducing other preventive measures like spraying of the environment to kill the lavas among others.

“We need continuity to sustain these policies, especially now. If you recall, the government also launched the universal health coverage, which is targeted at reducing out-of-pocket spending to the minimum. This has already started in earnest and the

idea is to get a big pool that can cater for the health needs of women, children, elderly and the vulnerable persons,” he said.

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