By Sola Ogundipe
NIGERIANS will enjoy better standard of health services this year, in terms of quality of care and accessibility at Federal government-owned health institutions across the country.
This expectation is based on a major resolve of the Federal government to improve the standard of health care delivery in the country, while strengthening the drug and hospital supply chain management system.
Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin told Good Health Weekly that although theÂ system of doing things within the Nigerian health sector had improvedÂ within the last one year, there was need to keep up the tempo of improvement for the sake of the average Nigerian.
â€œA major issue that confronts us has to do with standards. No matter what we do or what equipment we put in the hospitals, there is the matter of standards. So how do we maintain these standards? InÂ 2010 this will be addressed.
â€œWe must start with our own hospitals and I am looking at a situation where we shall be working with State Commissioners of Health to tidy up issues of accreditation and ensure they actually deliver on what they promise.â€
He said the apex health Minstry wasÂ sending in its own regulatory bodies so that they can begin to do what is described as continuing education for the health professionals and set up sanctions for those not delivering.
â€œOne thing I find curious is the issue of supply chain management, We cannot run an effective health system without a solid supply chain system. I donâ€™t want to centralize this because that will take away the powers of the hospitals in question but I think there has to be a culture of maintaining supply within hospitals.
â€œIf we are charging people to pay, they must be able to get what they pay for,â€ the Minister argued
Giving a run down of achievements recorded by the MinistryÂ within the past year, he said: â€œOne thing we must celebrate this year as a major achievement is that we have negotiated new salaries for health workers without one day of strike. Doctors have MSS, others have the CONHESS and this was done on the basis of trust and mutual respect.
â€œIf we take this and the refurbishing of the health institutionsÂ and the fact that we are trying very hard to improve their ability to work, we expect there should be returns on them. â€œ
Oshotimehin stressed that in 2009, the Federal government started with a clear plan and pursued it even in the face of challenges.. â€œWhen we started last year, we wanted to put together a National Strategic Health Plan. That we have concluded significantly. It involved all the States of the Federation each producing its own plan and all have folded into one plan. We have costed and finalised this plan that is going to drive our budget.
He said government was building confidence in the system will take time. I think there is a disconnect and we need to go out there and let people know what is available.â€
Recalling that theÂ polio issue has improved tremenduously, Oshotimehin said it was worthy of celebration. â€œIn fact the epidermiology of polio in Nigeria has changed for the better in the last one year. We donâ€™t ascribe to our stakeholder groups particularly traditional rulers who have been a key figure ijn this effort. I have confidence tha if we continue to push this way we will be able to eliminate polio in the next one year.
Other advances include the placement ofÂ 2,500 midwives in the rural areas, trained and kitted for 624 institutions around Nigeria, increased coverage for NHIS, by way of the maternal and child health intervention, 6 states have been able to access resources from the MDGs for women and children;
One of the major challenges in 2009 was howÂ governance of health remained anÂ issue.
Oshotimehin lamented there was no connectivity between the Federal, State and Local Government Areas. â€œThere is a still problem with that. Itâ€™s a big thing because in some locations, it is the teaching Hospitals that are taking all the burden of healthcare, even as we are striving to develop the secondary and primary healthcare.â€