As Nigeria celebrates 60 years of independence on
Oct. 1, 2020, health experts have called for reorganisation of the nation’s
health sector in such a way that the strength and weaknesses of the system
will be analysed and repositioned to provide quality healthcare services to citizens.
The experts explained their positions in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria
(NAN) in Lagos on Wednesday, as they reviewed the nation’s health sector performance in the last
60 years of the country’s nationhood.
Prof. Olufemi Babalola, the President of Guild of Medical Directors, suggested that a new approach be
evolved to ensure that the strength was improved upon, while the weaknesses be eliminated.
Babalola said that private hospitals scattered all over the country should be harnessed and incorporated
into the system “to ensure that nobody needs to walk more than five minutes from his or her residence
before seeing a doctor.
“The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) had yet to achieve the objectives for which it was set
up because most of the people benefitting from it were civil servants.
“Many people are left out and not covered in the scheme and do not know
about NHIS, how to register or benefit from it.
“We have always advocated that the registration for NHIS be at the level of
the private hospital. People should be able to just walk to any private hospital
in their area and enroll into the NHIS if they wish to.”
The guild president maintained that to make healthcare affordable and
accessible for citizens, NHIS process should be devoid of bureaucracy.
He said “NHIS should stop enrolling patients to teaching hospitals;
patients should be enrolled in well equipped private hospitals or primary
healthcare centres manned by trained doctors.
“Many hospitals are on NHIS but are not fully utilised because patients keep
going to tertiary hospitals. It is only when these hospitals cannot handle such
patients that they can be referred to teaching hospitals.
“We are not happy with the state of the health sector because it is far
below standards and the rest of the world.
“We have policies that we don’t follow; most of our primary healthcare centres have
collapsed, and everyone goes to the teaching hospitals for treatment, this should
not be the case.”
According to him, secondary healthcare facilities should be improved upon,
and state governments should stop abdicating their roles and build standard
general hospitals that will be maintained in the states.
Babalola maintained that Federal Government should evolve policies to
ban foreign medical trips on government funding, noting that “if we don’t have
such policy in place, there will be no incentives for those in authority to develop
the healthcare sector.
“We must put an end to medical tourism and force people to access care in
“If you must travel abroad, you must show reasons that your condition cannot
be treated in Nigeria.”
The guild boss also called for deliberate policies to encourage research
and enhance training, noting that “medical practice changes quickly, and past
knowledge becomes obsolete. There is need for training and retraining.”
He said the country must take it as an issue of national pride and ensure that
all hospitals were well equipped, maintained and functional.
The expert also appealed that wages, welfare and training of health workers
be improved to reverse the brain drain challenge in the country.
Dr Tunji Akintade, former Chairman of Association of General and Private
Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) in Lagos State, said that globally,
health insurance was seen as the way to reposition the health sector.
Akintade said that the nation’s health insurance system should be properly
funded, be inclusive and function effectively.
He added that “we need to decide what we want from handlers of the health scheme.
We need to have a benchmark, a scorecard and timeline for their
“We should make funds available when needed, and remove bureaucratic
bottlenecks that might hinder access to service delivery.”
On his assessment of the nation’s health sector, Akintade said that the sector
was not healthy.
He said that developments in the sector was not at par with the country’s length of
existence as an independent country.
According to him, proper and robust planning for the nation’s healthcare system
has not been done.
He noted that “we always think that funding is the major problem of the
health sector; if we mobilise billions of Naira and inject into the sector, there won’t
be commensurate and desired results.
“This is because there is a large gap in human resources, service delivery and
production for health services in the country.
“Until we look into these issues, there won’t be desired growth and development
in the sector, in spite of years of the country’s existence.”
Akintade said that other allied health workers were also important to ensure
that the sector functioned effectively.
The chairman, who said that the country had neglected medical administration,
hospital administration and information technology, noted that COVID-19
pandemic had exposed the challenges in the sector.
He explained that “health in itself is not about medication and diagnosis; we
must look at the sector holistically to achieve sustainable development.”
He pointed out that there was need to strengthen public/private partnerships
to encourage investors into the health sector.
He called for low interest rates for commercial loans to the health sector,
saying it should be reduced to between zero and four per cent to boost investment
and development in the sector.
Akintade appealed to all professionals in the sector to unite and shun
all forms of rivalry to promote growth.
In his remarks, Prof. Babatunde Salako, the Director-General of Nigerian Institute of
Medical Research (NIMR), Yaba, Lagos State, said Nigeria had made significant progress
in the health sector in the country’s 60 years of independence.
Salako said: “I believe we have made significant progress, after all, our healthcare system
has grown larger in terms of facilities and human resources for health.
“What remains is to improve the quality of healthcare delivery, including access and coverage.”
On President Muhammadu Buhari’s nine-point policy agenda, including access to healthcare
delivery, he said the Federal Government was doing everything possible to make healthcare
accessible for all Nigerians.
According to him, more funds should be committed to health research to improve and bring
about innovations targeted at boosting the sector.
He said “I believe government is doing its best, but funding for the health sector needs
to improve further.
“The Basic Healthcare Provision Fund will improve the quality of delivery, but needs to be
monitored and targeted toward improved access and quality healthcare delivery.”
He said that health research funding should receive significant attention to
serve as a veritable source of innovation and quality healthcare system, he added. (NAN)