By CHIOMA OBINNA & MONSUR OLOWOPEJO
STATE governments across the Federation have been tasked to demonstrate unrelenting commitment towards achieving national and global targets in the health sector.
Towards this end, Federal and the State governments are aiming to contribute $100 million to tackle the HIV/AIDS in the state, even as the importance of health insurance has been highlighted as holding the magic answer to some challenges in the health sector.
Speaking at the 56th National Council On Health Meeting NCH, which opened last week at the Civic Center, Lagos, themed ‘Health Sector Now and Beyond 2015’, Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu said “states needed to strengthen healthcare right from the grassroots, as this would ensure quick realisation of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.”
His words: “The MDGs continue to be the benchmark for our progress in the health sector. We should explore ways of accelerating the attainment of these goals and make efforts to strengthen the health care system even after 2015.”
“We (Federal and state governments) need to make sustained efforts and evaluate our actions in the health sector with a focus on global and national commitments that will translate into better health care delivery in the country.”
Chukwu said the Federal Government had in the past few years recorded great strides in the health sector through President Goodluck Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda.
“We have made progress in diseases control and our other goals in the health sector. For example, Lassa Fever has reduced from about 1,100 cases in 2011 to slightly less than a 1000 cases in 2012.Even meningitis has reduced from about 1,000 cases in 2012 to less than 700 cases in 2013.
“Guinea worm that was still prevalent in the country four years ago has been totally eradicated from the country and cases of cholera have been drastically reduced, he said.
Further, he disclosed that the essence of the plan to inject $100m into HIV/AIDS management was to identify priority attention and increase domestic resources.We have also made considerable progress against malaria. Since 2010 we have distributed almost 60 million insecticide treated nets in all states of Federation.
Chukwu said government was strengthening health facilities across the country and enunciating policies aimed at improving healthcare delivery.
Declaring the meeting open, Fashola said the nation’s healthcare sector needs immediate rejuvenation.
“Every state is making intervention in the area of healthcare, in terms of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, training and retraining of healthcare personnel and so on, the story is the same. It is the intensity of activity that is perhaps a little different.
Fashola who observed that people cannot afford health services because they are expected to pay on cash-and-carry basis, said the only way to efficient healthcare is to address inequalities between public and private healthcare.
On the way forward, he asked: “Can we design an insurance system that provides access that will be the responsibility that you and I and all of us can think through and find a way for our people?
“As we think that through, let me share with you the fact that we are already running pilot schemes of health insurance in Lagos, we are in three local governments now and what we see is that the poor can pay, if it is reasonably and sensibly drafted,” Fashola asserted.