Association urges FG to increase annual budgetary allocation to health sector

The Nigerian Optometrists Association (NOA) has urged the Federal Government to increase annual budgetary allocation to the nation’s health sector toward solving some of the challenges facing it.

Dr Ozy Okonokhua, the National President of the association, made the plea on Wednesday while addressing journalists on preparation for the association’s national conference holding in Calabar from July 18 to July 20.

Okonokhua said that problems in the health sector were surmountable, especially if the three tiers of government could carry out the needed reforms in the sector.

“The Federal Government should increase the yearly budgetary allocation to the health sector.

“The current budgetary allocation to the ministry is not enough to address the current challenges facing the sector.

“We also believe that the appointment of Minister of Health should not be limited to medical doctors alone, because we have other professionals in the sector. They should be considered too.

“Furthermore, governments should establish more primary healthcare centres in the rural areas across the country and involve optometrists to reduce avoidable blindness in the rural communities,” he said.

The president of the association expressed concern over the neglect of optometrists in government hospitals in the country.

He said optometrists were not being fully utilised in the hospitals, adding that this was not in the best interest of the patients.

“Activities of optometrists should be made to function properly.

“The normal thing is that as soon as a patient enters the hospital, the first thing is to undergo an eye test before any other diagnosis.

“But today in our hospitals, nobody cares about eye checks, except when patients are on referral,” Okonokhua said.

He advised Nigerians to desist from patronising quacks so as to avoid going blind due to carelessness.

Okonokhua said that the eye was very delicate and could easily be damaged by activities of quacks.

He added that the association was doing its best to rid the profession of quacks.

“We advise the public to always seek the services of qualified optometrists whenever they notice any problem rather than partronising a quack whose interest is money,” Okonokhua said.

He said that the association was planning to set up a task force to check quackery across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory.

In April 2001, Heads of State of African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to improve the health sector.

Since the declaration, Nigeria has not attained the pledged funding benchmark as the Federal Government has never voted more than six per cent of its annual budget to the health sector.

The highest percentage since the declaration was in 2012 when 5.95 per cent of the budget was allotted to health.

In the 2018 budget proposal, President Muhammadu Buhari, allocated N340.45 billion, representing 3.9 per cent of the N8.6 trillion expenditure plan to the health sector.

The allocation is less than the 4.16 per cent and 4.23 per cent made to the health sector by the administration in the 2017 and 2016 budgets. (NAN)

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