Stakeholders in the health sector in Nigeria have said that if the National Health Act (NHA) is implemented, the budgetary allocation to health increased, the Primary Healthcare Centres revamped and improved, and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is made compulsory for every Nigerian, access to healthcare will be improved and Nigeria will be a hub for medical tourism.
Speaking exclusively with The Daily Times, the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Professor Mike Ogirima said the act has been signed into law and needs to be implemented to enhance Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“With the National Health Act, we will have more funds for the health sector and make it more functional and there will be improvement in the areas of providing healthcare to the citizens. Every Nigerian has the right to ask for the implementation of the act legally and there is need for more doctors to be employed for improved services.”
Ogirima further said: “The equipment in our health facilities are breaking down and we are not replacing them. If the equipment is revitalized, it will go a long way to reducing medical tourism.”
The National Health Act of 2014 provides a framework for the regulation, development and management of a health system and sets standards for rendering health services in Nigeria.
According to the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja, Professor Adewale Oke, the Ministry of Health should ensure that the Primary Healthcare system is secured.
“There is an explosion of non-communicable disease right now. In the past, we used to suffer from communicable diseases, viral infection, bacteria infection; now we have an explosion of hypertension and diabetes; we also have epidemic of high cholesterol, stroke, kidney failure and heart attack. This shows that we are not living a healthy lifestyle, coupled with the present recession, which adds more stress to people.
“We have to check it with adequate management of all these conditions. The Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole is working 24 hours every week to make sure we secure the primary healthcare setting because if we do that, we will also prevent some of these non-communicable diseases from appearing in the future.
“Lagos state government has started already with the three tiers of health management-primary health, the secondary health and tertiary health and we will fully establish that this year. With this, less patients will be coming to the tertiary centre because they would have been well managed at the primary and secondary institutions.”
The Don also said he expects that the HIV vaccine will be well established “because right now, in South Africa, there is a test going on and hopefully by the end of this year or beyond, we will have a vaccine for HIV. I expect that there will be control of viral hemorrhage fever and we are just recovering from the Lassa Fever that hit Ogun state and there is also a vaccine being tested that will help in preventing Lassa Fever and may be the other viral hemorrhagic fever.
“We hope we have a well-established health insurance system in Lagos state because the House of Assembly has passed it into law. So, health, under the leadership of the Commissioner for Health, Dr Jide Idris is working very hard. With that, any patient that is insured will have any kind of investigation and will be given the treatment available.”
He however said, the only problem is funding “and I think the federal government should give us the appropriate WHO allocation. Even if it can’t match it, they should go a bit higher, may be half, which would do a lot in sorting us out. Even people who are rich enough to go abroad to seek health cannot go anymore with the state of the Naira. So, the only way to solve our problem is to develop our health institutions.”
Lagos State Chairman of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Dr. Adeyeye Arigbabuwo said, “The Federal Government must implement the National Health Act to improve the health sector and that will allow us advocate for the Universal Health Coverage. If the act is implemented, we will be able to address the issues of certificate of standard and who takes care of the hospital.”
The chairman also said that the health budget is abysmally low. “The budget should be improved to 7 per cent, if not up to 10 per cent. Some countries have raised the bar to even 20 per cent and we are still on 3 per cent.
“Again, there should be an emphasis on the Primary Healthcare to reduce the burden on our secondary and tertiary institutions.”
The National President of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr John Onyebueze said in 2017, “the NHA must be implemented, improve on the funding to the health sector, revamp and maintain facilities and equipment in the health sector, honour agreement with the unions in the health sector, improve staff welfare and relationship with the unions, pay all arrears of salary of 2015 and 2016 including those arising from victimization of our members by selectively applying No Work, No Pay rule during the period they were on strike to demand the payment of their salaries as it was not applied to other workers who also went on strike as well as in the Ministry of Education.”