By Sola Ogundipe
ONE of the biggest expectations of Nigerians from the health sector in 2015 is improved access to universal and improved quality health care as a fall out of the various policies launched by the Federal government over the years.
There is no gainsaying that Nigerians are tired of coping with a near-comatose health sector, bogged down by incessant health worker strikes, poor attitude of personnel and other plethora of problems.
Concerns have been raised in several circles that much remains to be desired under the current administration’s transformation agenda, to reposition the health sector.
Throwing light on the issue in Abuja, Minister of Health, Dr. Khaliru Alhassan, said even though the Federal government has put in place a number of policies to that would kick-start the right mechanism to move the sector forward, continuity is required to attain the set goals.
“We have gone quite far in our plans to reposition the health sector, and I believe having a government that already understands the policies will go a long way in helping achieve our goals.
“We need continuity to sustain these policies, especially now, if you recall the government has approved the National Health Bill and launched the Universal Health Coverage which is targeted at reducing out-of-pocket spending to the minimum. This has already started in ernest and the idea is to get a big pool that can cater for the health needs of women, children, elderly and the vulnerable persons,” he said.
Assessing some of the achievements during the past year, he noted: “Look at the way the country has drastically reduced polio from 56 cases in 2013 to only six cases in 2014. We are on the way to becoming polio free and getting our certification from the WHO because we have not recorded any new polio case for almost a year , but we are not sitting on our oars, we have introduced various new vaccines to reduce infant diseases and deaths.”
On the passage of the Health bill, the minister said it was timely and a boost to the sector because it would help provide additional funds to the sector, even as oil prices have taken a down turn. “We know that various financial experts have predicted that hard times are ahead for the country, we are already working with all our stakeholders to see how we can adjust our projections to aid us plan better. When you talk of the reduction of maternal and infant deaths, the country has made improvements.
“We have introduced a lot of interventions at the Federal, state and local government areas to safeguard the lives of women and children.”
Further, significant intervention was recorded in the fight against HIV/AIDS, through launch of the presidential elimination of the Mother to child Transmission, eMTCT programme. “The government has already declared a zero tolerance policy to new HIV positive babies, and this is a big commitment but we are determined to see it through. We also intend to test more Nigerians and also put much more persons on drugs, these are all plans that are in top gear, a distortion in the plan might not augur well for the country,”Alhassan argued.
He said recently the Federal government commissioned the trauma centre to handle cases of traumatic emergencies. “Now most of our secondary and tertiary facilities are doing transplants which in the past was not possible. We are tackling the issues of medical tourism head on. Most of the surgeries being sought abroad can now be done conveniently here in Nigeria, and all these is due to commitment of President Goodluck Jonathan.”
‘A lot of improvement and transformative changes are happening under the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS. We are not there yet but we are close. “With team work we eradicated Ebola which is still ravaging other African countries, we worked together with all health stakeholders at all levels of government to eliminate this from our shores.
“This is the kind of team spirit we are working to restore in the sector, one that is patient-based and patient-centered, he noted, stating that the white paper submitted by the Yayale Committee said it would resolve most of the conflicts and grievances of workers within the health sector.”