Efficient healthcare system: Abia NMA urges increase in healthcare financing

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The Abia branch of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called for increased financing of the health sector in order to promote greater efficiency in the healthcare system in the state.


The state Chairman of the association, Dr Chimezie Okwuonu, made the call on Friday during this year’s Annual General Meeting/Scientific Conference of the body in Umuahia.


Okwuonu said: “As a pillar of the health system, financing the healthcare sector is critical in healthcare delivery.


“Nationwide, the most important reason doctors are leaving the shores of Nigerian is poor financing of the healthcare sector both in terms of remuneration and equipping the hospitals.”

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He said the migration of doctors, including those in both federal and state establishments in Abia, to foreign countries was driven by the desire “for better pay and standard of living”.


Okwuonu said the situation in Abia was made worse by “the protracted salary arrears owed to members in the state teaching and general hospitals”.


He said the unwholsome development “discourages the work force, demoralises the staff members and depreciates the quality of services rendered in the centres.


“In NMA Abia, our main problem over the years, and especially in the last one year, is poor financing of the health sector with the attendant problems in the sector.”


He described the issue of unpaid salaries by the state government as the only recurring problem of doctors in government health institutions.


Okwuonu thanked the government “for remitting subventions for salary payment, moving forward,” but demanded the payment of all the arrears owed to doctors.


“This will go a long way to boost workers’ morale, encourage high level discipline among members of staff and general improvement in healthcare delivery to our people,” he said.


He expressed the hope that the conference, with the theme: “Financing the healthcare sector in Abia – challenges and way forward – “shall help us to understand healthcare financing from government officials and resource managers”.


In a brief speech, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu promised that government would continue to support the public health institutions to provide quality healthcare services.


Ikpeazu, represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr Joe Osuji, however, admonished health workers to show more commitment and dedication to their duties for which they were being paid.


He further underscored the need for NMA to assist the government to checkmate the corrupt tendencies among the health workers in government-owned health institutions.


The panel of discussants, however, expressed concern over the crippling effect of corruption and indiscipline on effective healthcare delivery in the state.


The panel expressed concern that government had not treated the menace with the desired seriousness to ensure sanity and discipline in the system.


It charged the government to be bold to fish out the masterminds of corruption and indiscipline in the system and deal decisively with them, in order to ensure efficiency in the sector.


It regretted the the citizenry was going through excruciating pain to afford healthcare in Abia, describing the cost as astronomical.


It said that patients were spending an annual out of pocket sum of about N184 billion on healthcare in the state.


The panel therefore recommended a public, private partnership arrangement that could help to pool the necessary financial resources to adequately fund the health sector.


It opined that with huge resources at its disposal, government could subsidise the outrageous cost of healthcare to make it affordable to the masses, especially rural dwellers.


It also urged the government to make enrollment in the state health insurance scheme compulsory.


It said that many people were still skeptical about the implementation of the scheme, hence the need for increased advocacy and awareness creation to enhance citizens’ enrollment.


Members of the panel included the commissioner for health and his Finance counterpart, Dr Aham Uko, and former Chief Medical Director, ABSUTH, Aba, Prof. Kamanu Chuks.


Others were the Chief Executive of the Health Management Board, Dr Christopher Aharauka, and NMA National Committee Chairman on Health Financing, Dr Kelechi Onyeonoro.


In a remark, the Commissioner for Finance, Dr Aham Uko, disagreed that patients were spending N184 billion out of pocket on healthcare, considering the per capita income of residents.


Uko said that government was exploring opportunities to improve the health sector.
He said that government was expecting to receive the Central Bank of Nigeria’s post-COVID-19 grant of N2.5 billion, in addition to a World Bank Post-COVID-19 grant.


He gave assurance that both grants would be fully deployed to massively transform the healthcare system to meet the needs of the citizenry.


According to him, the grants, when received, will be utilised to build an ultra modern kidney centre, a world class diagnostic centre in Abia north and doctors’ quarters.


He said it would also be deployed to support accreditation programmes at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital (ABSUTH), Aba, and other health institutions in the state, among other health-related projects.


The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme of the conference is: “Financing the health sector in Abia – challenges and way forward.”


The NMA chairman said the event would be used to offer free medical screening for Medical and Dental Practitioners in the state, with emphasis on blood pressure, body mass index, urinalysis and eye examination.


He also said the business session would X-ray the activities of the association in the last one year, ratify some decisions and design the roadmap to move the group forward.


He said his leadership would continue to pursue the welfare of doctors, increasing NMA relevance in governance, ensuring accountability in governance and building synergy for healthcare delivery in Abia, among other programmes. (NAN)

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