Health sector reforms must target free, affordable healthcare- VP Osinbajo

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo said on Monday that the ultimate objective of reforms in the country’s healthcare system should be the provision of free or affordable and good healthcare for the people.


Prof. Osinbajo stated this at the opening of a two-day Presidential Health Reform Committee Retreat, holding at the Muhammadu Buhari Conference Centre at the Nigerian Intelligence Agency Complex, Abuja.


Calling for clarity in the vision and objectives of reforms in the country’s health sector, the Vice President insisted that the target of most societies in their reform of the health sector is to provide citizens with either free or affordable and good healthcare system.


“I think that ultimately what most societies hope to do is provide citizens with either free or affordable and good healthcare.  This is something we are looking at.


“Of course, the critical components of that objective are also subject matters of reform. These includes health Insurance for all, primary care and pandemic preparedness. 


“But we must keep in mind what the ultimate objective is.”


He pointed out that universal health coverage remains the key objective of the reform process.


Building blocks


According to Prof. Osinbajo, the Nigerian government has made some significant efforts to lay some important building blocks for reforms in the healthcare sector.


These include the signing of the bill establishing the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in 2018 and the signing into law the National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022 by President Muhammadu Buhari.


He also spoke on the Primary Healthcare Summit, which took place earlier this year.


“This was organized by the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency towards re-imagining primary healthcare in Nigeria, where a case was made for private partner partnerships to complement on improving infrastructure, availability of health commodities, health workforce and use of evidence to deploy resources. This remains a focus for the attainment of universal health coverage.


“At the sub-national level, we must acknowledge and commend the 36 Executive Governors on the recent launching of the Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge Fund, which is a commitment by the 36 Executive Governors to elevate primary health care higher on their agendas.”


He said all of these events and others were points of progress which must now coalesce into one central programme.


Overarching principle


The vice president said the overarching principle of the process of Nigeria’s health reform has been inclusivity.


He said this was reflected in the membership of Presidential Health Reform Committee, which includes representation from the states, professional healthcare bodies, private sector and distinguished medical academics.


He explained why he approved the co-option of additional ministries, department and agencies and other stakeholders in the Presidential Health Reform Committee.


“Indeed, if there is anything we learnt from the Covid pandemic and especially its aftermath is that healthcare, especially public health emergencies cannot but have a multi-disciplinary, multi sector approach,” the vice president said.


He urged participants at the two-day retreat to use the opportunity to define a trajectory for the future of proposed recommendations for reform and expressed hoped that a draft document should be ready by January 2023.


He said the participants should set the broad parameters and vision for the health care system desired for the people and to adopt a flexible approach, that enables government to track and incorporate other reform initiatives.


In his remarks, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire emphasized the need to prioritize health as a country and agree on how to raise funds to reach 95% of the country’s population with standard minimum package of health services.


“We need to build on an environment in our health centres that is appealing, respectable of rights and privacy of patients in healthcare, to train healthcare workers to be emphatic and respectful of each other and of patients and to raise the quality of care delivery to be dignified and prompt and build a resilient, reliable supply chain system to ensure smooth management of commodities and to devise a sustainable healthcare financing for population in a way that no one is left out,” Ehanire stated.


Three papers were presented at the opening of the event by the Director, Department of Health Planning, Research and Statistics, Dr. Ngozi Azodoh; Coordinating Officer, Presidential Health Reform Committee; Dr. Assad Hassan and a Research Consultant, Development, Research and Projects Centre, Dr. Michael Turnwait.


In his presentation, Turnwait called for institutional reforms that would ensure that the federal government takes care of tertiary health facilities, while the states and councils handle secondary and primary health facilities respectively.

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