The healthcare of every individual should be made a top priority regardless of your age, sex and location. In improving the mindset of people towards their health and healthcare centres, Pharmacist Abiola Olubunmi Paul-Ozieh is one of the few women who has stepped out to promote health care among Nigerians. She is the CEO of Pharmacy Villa and High Rock Pharmacy. She is currently the Chairman of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN), Lagos State and the vice-chairman of Healthcare Providers Association of Nigeria, (HCPAN) Lagos State. In this chat with ESTHER ONYEGBULA, she tells more.
What is this mid-year conference about?
Today we are having a kind of interaction to discuss the way forward in this new dispensation. As you all know we are about a change in baton from one government to another one and I think as far as the fourth republic is concerned this is the first time that is happening at the federal government level. This is very important for us today. As healthcare providers and practitioners, we are gathered together to look at the modalities of what our goals and objectives should be to enable the public health improve at the long run and not jeopardize it in any way. We are looking at what has been done by the existence of the previous government, what we should be looking forward to and areas we should be able to put in a word or two to the incoming government to enable us better the lot of people, improve health outcome in the public sector and generally.
Since the Government inaugurated the National Health Insurance Scheme, what have we been able to do, what have we been able to achieve? Don’t you think we could have done more, what could we have done better?
The NHIS have not done much because of several constrains, one of such constraints is that the enabling law stated in section 16, that all Nigerians “may” attached to it. It was not compelling, for it to be compelling you need to put something like “it shall be”. When you make something compulsory, everybody knows that they have a stake in it, and that is the area we are looking at, how do we bring in people in such that people no-longer depend on out of pocket expenses when sickness comes people won’t stay in the house for another one day, two days two weeks before they can access health, so health insurance in one way is to ensure that NHIS is accessible, affordable and available to Nigerians and this is where healthcare providers, and healthcare practitioners come in.
What is the benefit of this mobile healthcare insurance scheme?
Apart from reducing excuses the mobile health insurance scheme will provide a lot of options when we finally start, One of the areas where we are looking at is the mobile health insurance scheme with the mobile health insurance a platform that would allow people to log on to a health insurance scheme, commit themselves to it. Once they commit themselves to it, they automatically can access healthcare services whenever they need it. There won’t be many excuses like, I can’t go to their office, I don’t know the direction to their office; as people can register with their mobile phones, access the services available, people can choose their healthcare provider, Health Maintenance Organization (HMO), the hospital or clinic, pharmacy, laboratory that they want. These are the options that would be available on the mobile health insurance platform.
How soon will the mobile health insurance scheme be available?
As soon as the NHIS is ready, we have looked and examined the mobile health insurance scheme to ensure that all healthcare professionals can do something and be seen to be doing something and I believe mobile service provider will ensure that it works in accordance with the NHIS act and will be implemented in line with the NHIS act. Let everyone provide the care they have been trained to provide. The medical doctors, let them give medical care, the pharmacists, pharmaceutical care, the nurses let them give nursing care, and the physiotherapist let them deliver their services. Let people be paid based on the services they have rendered if that is done each healthcare professional group is willing to deliver the sort of care they have been trained for, the ultimate beneficiary is the patient, the public or the client out there as the case may be and that will eventually improve our healthcare outcomes.
If implemented would the mobile health insurance scheme impact on maternal and child mortality in Nigeria?
It could because already in some of the they have already included maternal health services in it so with maternal health services included a woman doesn’t need to wait until she is five month before registering for antenatal, today you see in Nigeria you see a woman who is five months pregnant yet to approach any healthcare facility to take pre-antenatal care and that is not good. Antenatal care is one of the benefits under NHIS; since it is already included we should be able to provide these services.
We are an oil producing nation and yet we have one of the worst health indicator indices in the world. I believe that if healthcare insurance is made accessible, affordable and available to all Nigerians some of these indices will improve and we too will be able to talk in the community of nations and that requires conscious planning.
Let me take you down memory lane, Health for all 2000 by World Health Organization (WHO), does it have anything to do with this?
I think it does, the World Health Organization at their sitting look at opportunities to ensure that this health for all is achieved. You can say they have not been able to achieve in since 2000 but there are different avenues WHO is advising and instructing nations that these are the things you need to begin to do for your people. They stand as watch dog, as advisers to nations on the direction to go. If you can recall it is also the world health organization that informed nations to imbibe primary health care the basic minimum of health and we have imbibed that as a nation. But for us in Nigeria what we have always lacked is the political will, to will power to implement this, the willpower to execute this and implement them to the core
Advice to the new administration, as it concerns health?
I will advise the incoming government not to look at whatsoever has been done by the outgoing government in the past and just throw it away. We should examine every programme, project, policy, and guideline, holistically and know that which is good, which is right and which has been done in the interest of the public health, ones that need to be repackaged should be repackaged and work on it. We don’t just want policies and regulations; we want implementations and the public to be the beneficiaries of these policies.