By Gabriel Olawale
Irked by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s health system, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has called for immediate implementation of the annual 15 percent budget allocation to the health sector agreed in 2001 by African heads of state in Abuja.
President of the NMA, Professor Innocent Ujah who made the call during NMA Physician’s Week in Lagos, regretted that 18 years after the Abuja Declaration, the Nigerian government has failed to implement the agreement despite huge challenges in the health sector.
Ujah who also noted that the current pandemic calls to question, the historic pledge the Nigeria government made with other African governments said the pandemic has exposed the acute shortages of critical and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds in Nigerian hospitals.
“Precisely on the 27th of April 2001, African governments made a historic pledge in Abuja, Nigeria to allocate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector. As COVID-19 spreads and wreaks havoc across the world, the question must be asked: what has become of this vow of allocation 15 percent national budget to health?
“At the heart of the fragile health systems is the perennial failure of governments at all levels to prioritize health and allocate adequate resources to it. Nigeria’s allocation to health in 2020 was a mere 4.16 percent of the budget and it is unpredictable how much of the fund would be released of the care of the people of Nigeria.
Ujah further called on the government to adequately invest in healthcare system, adding that, the scary statistics of health indicators in the country has been further worsened by COVID-1 and unacceptable to the Nigerian Doctors.
“We hereby call for more strategic, focused planning and actions as no meaningful development can take place in a society where disease and deaths are ravaging the potential leaders and hopes of our tomorrow.
“For Nigeria to achieve this objective of improved health care, it will involve health strengthening using six core components of service delivery, health workforce, and health information systems, improving access to essential medicines, paying more attention to healthcare financing and ensuring good governance in leadership at all level”
He further called on the Federal government to review upward the current abysmally poor hazard allowance paid to doctors and other frontline health workers in public service.
Corroborating his views, the First Lady of Lagos State, Dr. Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, who was the Special Guest of Honour at the event, admonished states across the federation to build its health emergency system in a way that it will be able to tackle any form of disease outbreak, “as a state we should not wait for another pandemic outbreak before we build our health system.
“Every state needs to have paramedic that is trained on regular basis so that at every outbreak they will be prepared. Nigerians also need to be vigilant, people think COVID-19 is over, that is our prayer but we should not relent, we need to continue to educate, create awareness and not relent.”
Speaking, the State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi said that post-COVID-19; government at all levels must build quality health systems that people and communities’ trust.
“Strengthen basic public health capacity, protect other essential services alongside the pandemic response, and address health workforce shortages as well as skills mix. We also need to sustain public financing and harmonize health investments.”
The Medical Director, Krown Hospital, Dr. Olukayode Akinlade advocated the creation of health Banks with 2 percent interest rate. “25 years ago, India established something that looks like health bank with 2 percent interest rate. A lot of doctors in Diaspora from India took advantage of it to come together and established high rise hospital with state of the art equipment.
“Ebola came five years ago, thank God Lagos did very well then, but now that Lagos becomes epicenter of COVID -19, it’s what Lagos State gain then that is helping them now. Can we say the same of other states of the country? The answer is no.
“It is projected that in the next 10 years, Europe will need 250,000 health workers and where do you think they will get it from? The majority will be from Nigeria, how then do will prevent our own from travelling abroad?”