October 2, 2012

Nigeria at 52: NMA decries uninspiring health indices


President of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Dr. Osahon Enabulele has expressed worry over the country’s uninspiring national health indices, saying, it is worrisome that Nigeria’s health system is still struggling with those of war-torn and less endowed countries, 52 years after independence.

In his assessment of the country’s health sector at 52, Enabulele who regretted the state of the nation’s health system,  said many factors and challenges have conspired against the realisation of the laudable objective of Walter-Harkness’ 10-Year Development Plan and the enunciation of the first National Health Development Plan in 1960.

He said Nigeria, before the 21st Century, would have achieved universal health coverage with all her citizens having access to quality healthcare if there were good governance at all levels of government.

Among challenges he identified were poor governance at all levels, policy inconsistency, lack of political commitment,corruption, infrastructural decay, undue politicisation of the health sector coupled with declining professionalism, poor constitutional and legal framework for health and absence of a National Health Act that clearly defines the roles and responsibilities of healthcare professionals, and roles and responsibilities of government in the management of the three levels of healthcare.

Other factors are; weak co-ordination, integration and implementation of health policies, programmes, poor funding and inadequate budgetary provisions for health,as well as inadequate numbers, inequitable distribution of the health workforce and weak primary and secondary levels of care with a weak referral system amongst others.

Enabulele who acknowledged improvements in the past few years under the current Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, called for a sincere commitment to electoral reforms and enthronement of good governance, credible, committed, accountable and people-centred leadership at all levels.

For repositioning of the health sector, he recommended political commitment to health by all levels of government, transparent implementation of poverty reduction schemes, expansion of the National Health Insurance Scheme and commitment to Universal Health Coverage by government at all levels.

He also made a case for improved budgetary provision for health of at least 15 percent of the national budget with adequate release and effective utilisation of the funds/health resources among others.