December 16, 2014

National Health Bill: NMA, PSN, others harp on effective implementation

National Health Bill: NMA, PSN, others harp on effective implementation

The Senate

By Chioma Obinna, Favour Nnabugwu & Victoria Ojeme

The Senate

Months after agitation for the assent of the Revised National Health Bill trailed it’s passage by the Senate, healthcare professionals have commended President Goodluck Jonathan for signed the much awaited Bill into law. However, they urged the Federal government to ensure quick implementation of the Act.

The Bill, which is now an Act of Parliament, is designed to provide a framework for the regulation, development and management of a National Health system and set standards for rendering health service in the country.

A statement from Nigeria Health Watch, quoting Mr.Reuben Abati, Presidential spokesman on Twitter described the development as “a fantastic end of year present to Nigeria, given that the bill was running the risk of expiry for the second time, having made its way through both Houses of Assembly twice. This development comes as stakeholders in the health sector describe the National Health Bill as an important crossroads in the country.

The Senate passed the controversial Health Bill 2014 into law following its third reading in the House. Titled “A Bill for an Act to Provide a Framework for the Regulation, Development and Management of a National Health System” , the revised National Health Bill is expected to set standards and establish a framework for the regulation, management and development of the nation’s   health system.

Prior to its passage by the Senate, the Bill suffered several setbacks since it was submitted before the house by Senator   Ifeanyi Okowa who said it would enable the nation achieve Universal Health Coverage and meet   the Millennium Development Goals. MDGs, target.

Among others, the Bill is highly touted to provide basic health funds to jump start remarkable improvement, regulate medical practice and eliminate quackery in the health sector. Through the Bill, Federal government is expected to contribute 1 percent   of the consolidated revenue fund for the development of Primary Health Care, PHC, in the country. Excerpts from reactions of health professionals below:

Now access to universal Healthcare is guaranteed — NMA

Former NMA  President,  Dr Osahon Enabulele, described the assent by the President as a welcome development. “I recall vividly that when I (as then President of the Nigerian Medical Association) led a delegation to see Mr President on Tuesday, 8th October, 2013, over issues of national importance, including the need for his quick assent to the National Health Bill whenever it was passed by the National Assembly, Mr President had firmly pledged to assent to the National Health Bill (NHB) after it has been passed by the National Assembly.

“This was to ensure that the constitutional time limit of 30 days was met unlike what happened to the earlier National Health Bill passed by Nigeria’s 6th National Assembly.
Enabulele said despite the alleged insertions of certain provisions that were not in either versions passed by the respective legislative houses of the 7th National Assembly, all Nigerians had patiently agitated for its assent.

“Indeed, the National Health Act captures the legitimate aspirations of Nigerians for greatly improved access to quality healthcare services; Aside from engendering an equitable healthcare system, the National Health Act will hopefully ensure that deaths amongst Nigerians, particularly the rural poor, as a result of inability to pay for healthcare services (including medical care for emergencies) are drastically reduced.


“Finally, as Nigeria now moves towards the important task of implementing the National Health Act, I sincerely urge that efforts be made to involve all stakeholders in its transparent implementation.

Enabulele urged that efforts be made to address outstanding agitations of individuals and groups that objected to certain provisions introduced in the harmonized version of the Bill jointly passed by both houses of Nigeria’s National Assembly.

“I am convinced that now that Nigeria has a National Health Act, the journey towards putting a stop to the several avoidable deaths of children, women, the elderly and other Nigerians as a result of poor and inequitable access to a minimum package of healthcare services, has begun,” he asserted

Expedite action on implementation — PSN
President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Olumide Akintayo while   commening the presidential assent to the much expected National Health Bill however, urged government to expedite action on its implementation of the Act.
remarked; “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria thanks the Federal Government for following the dictates of the equalization principle entrenched in the 1999 constitution which normally should guarantee equal rights and privileges for all citizens of Nigeria.”

“Historically, the harmonised version of the National Health Bill signifies the first time the borders of restriction in healthcare were opened as major Health Professional Associations and Trade Unions are represented in key structures of the new Health Act.

“It is our hope that this seeming progressive document was not doctored after the harmonised version was passed at the National Assembly.
Further, he urged that the process of appointing drivers of salient aspects of the Health Act should therefore follow the conduct of a competitive selection process from a pool of professionals who have competent skill and cognate experience.”

We will go to court if grey areas remain — JOHESU
In his reaction, Felix Faniran, Vice President, Joint Health Sector Unions,   JOHESU, stated: “Mr President should be strongly commended for signing that bill into law. We have led series of protests against signing the bill into law in 2011 because it contains several grey areas which were anti people which were discriminatory, which were monopolistic of the NMA to the detriment of the other professions.

“We fought against those areas.   I want to believe that all those grey areas have been included and have not been doctored at all. If it is exactly what we have made input and was harmonized by both houses of the National Assembly, I must commend the president for that.
Faniran, who stressed that if the Act is given the necessary attention it deserves will go a long way in improving status of this country.

“We want to believe that the President has signed the authentic and original copy. If that is the case, there will be no problem. But if we found out that what we told have been corrected or not corrected, that is deceit of the highest order.

“If at the end of the day, the bill which has become an Act contain sections that we are not comfortable with, of course, we go to court,”he warned.

Bill will reduce health challenges — Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre
We hope the implementation of the bill will help reduce the many health challenges we have in the country. Definitely the impact of the health act on the health sector is that there will be proper coordination   and networking in terms of health services,” said Auwal Ibrahim Musa (Rafsanjani).   Executive Director Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC,

“This is will also help Nigeria to be more responsible on the allocation of resources to the sector. It is also help to serve a good example to other countries in Africa which they will emulate to have a sound health sector,” he stated.

“We are going to work with the legislature to ensure effective oversight in the implementation of the law. We also encourage development partners and civil society organizations to be prepared for the monitoring of the implementation of the act.

Set up implementing committee — White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood

In his reaction, Tonte Ibraye, National Coordinator, White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood stated: “This is a document that we have been fighting for its approval over the years. I am happy that   we are one step ahead. But then, it does not stop there.There is still a lot of work ahead to be done. There should be a clear implementation committee.  “The President should set up a committee to look at the modernity of its implementation and possible challenges that may arise from it and at the same time do a realistic costing base on the one per cent of consolidated revenue fund that has been allocated to the health sector in the act. We must ensure that there is a plan on how to effectively and transparently manage that one per cent and also the plan should also talk about the engagement with the private sector, civil society in terms of monitoring the progress of the Act.”