Healthcare crisis in Nigeria may worsen in 2013, labour warns

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By VICTOR AHIUMA-YOUNG

THE issue of poor and lack of access to quality healthcare services in Nigeria, especially for Nigerian workers and masses amidst increasing poverty, has remained a major topic for discourse at any healthcare forum. It appears the situation may not get better in 2013 if the view of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, is to be taking seriously.

At its 37th National Executive Council, NEC, in Abuja, where leaders also spotlighted the challenges of quality healthcare delivery in Nigeria, they picked hole in the 6 percent allocation to the health sector by the Federal Government in the 2013 budget proposal now before the National Assembly, arguing that it is grossly inadequate.

In a communiqué at the end of the NEC meeting by Comrades Ayuba Wabba   and Marcus Omokhuale, President and      General of MHWUN, respectively, said “early presentation of the 2013 budget proposal is a welcome development even though this presents some challenges such as harmonizing its commencement point since the 2012 budget is supposed to end by March 2013.

The NEC-in-session was however much more bothered by the provision for health in the budget, which is grossly inadequate at barely 6%. This is a far cry from resolution of African leaders as stated in the 2001 Abuja declaration to the effect that budgetary commitments of countries on the continent for health have to be a minimum of 15% if there is to be any hope for the mass of the population to access quality health.”

”A number of countries have met this goal. With the wealth of Nigeria and the critical importance of health for all, the NEC-in-session demands a scaling up of the provision for health in the 2013 budget to a minimum of 15%. MHWUN thus calls on the National Assembly to take note of this crucial position in reviewing the budget proposal presented by President Goodluck Jonathan.”

Challenges in the sector

Members of the union NEC, according to the communiqué, stressed their unshaken resolve to promoting harmony in the health sector, hinged on the realization of healthcare delivery as being inherently one of team workAccording to the communiqué “NEC-in-session was however alarmed by the continued intransigence of medical practitioners in undermining the progress and development of other cadres within the sector.

It was however noted that the report of the Presidential Committee on Harmony in the Health Sector would go a long way in addressing this matter. NEC-in-session thus calls for the speedy release of a white paper on the report and its due implementation.”

*A child in hospital

“The NEC – in – Session observed with dismay the parochial and selfish proposal of the Nigeria Medical Association to the Federal Government aimed at privatizing (outsourcing) certain clinical and non-clinical services in public health institutions on the flimsy claim that this will reduce crisis and boost revenue in the health sector without considering the health implications of privatizing such critical services like Pharmacy, Laboratory Services, Physiotherapy, Radiography, Catering/Dietetics and Laundry.   The NEC – in – Session rejects this position of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, in its entirety and will vehemently resist any attempt by government to implement such an obnoxious proposal.”

“The NEC – in – Session observed that, despite the review of designations and schemes of several cadres of health workers by the National Council on Establishment, reflecting the new horizons of their training and responsibilities, such have not been in anyway gazette.

This has adversely affected the career progression of MHWUN members. The NEC-in-session thus calls on the Federal Government through the office of the Head of Service to publish the schemes of service for health professionals that have been approved by the National Council on Establishment, NCE, to put an end to the consequent stagnation of various health cadres.”

“The NEC–in–session observed that some states of the federation are yet to implement the Consolidated Health Salary Structure, CONHESS. Further, it was observed that a number of those which have implemented the CONHESS have used inappropriate and questionable salary tables.  MHWUN thus calls on all to take necessary steps towards implement CONHESS comprehensively to all health workers as contained in the salary table released by the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission, NSIWC.”

Deteriorating health infrastructure

On the state of health facilities in the country, members of the union’s NEC said “The deteriorating State of healthcare infrastructures in the country is alarming and Nigeria continues to lose billions of naira yearly, through incessant patronage of foreign medical healthcare institutions.  NEC – in – Session therefore, call on the Federal, State and Local Government to as a matter of urgency revamp health infrastructures in the country to engender efficient healthcare delivery services as well as discouraging medical tourism.”

“The NEC – in – Session rejects the attitude of the Federal Ministry of Health and its relevant department and agencies in not involving the Trade Unions in the health sector in the annual review of the implementation of the National Health Development Plan.  It therefore, request the involvement of the union as a major stake holder which provides services that affect the effective implementation of such reviewed plan.”

Earlier in his welcome speech to the NEC members and other guests, Comrade  Wabba stressed the need for upgrading of the health facilities.

According to him, “As a responsible Trade union and one of the key players in the healthcare industry, it is our view, that this trend can be reversed and efforts charted towards progress and development and we, therefore strongly recommend that Government at Federal and State Levels need to tackle this challenge head long through wholistic re-structuring of the health care administration and to place premium on preventive healthcare.

Our policy formulation should be bottom up approach rather than top bottom as currently obtained.

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