By Joseph Erunke, ABUJA

FOR Nigeria to achieve Universal Health Coverage, there must be sustainable financing of the nation’s healthcare sector, the 36 state governors have said.

The governors, operating under the aegis of Nigeria Governors Forum, NGF, who spoke through their chairman and governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi, also said there was a need for the country to consolidate funding for primary health care services and other essential public health functions.

Fayemi spoke while delivering a keynote address at a 2-day programme, tagged:” Primary Healthcare Financing Forum”,organised by the governor’s forum for Nigerian Commissioners of Health on financial Primary Health Care in Nigeria.

Speaking through his representative and governor of Nasarawa State,Engr. Abdullahi Sule,the Chairman of NGF noted that equitable access to PHC services was key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals, SDG3 and Universal Health Coverage, UHC.

He insisted that to tackle the problem of financing for PHCs and meet the demands for the responsive system, the government must approach PHC financing and service delivery with four key focuses in mind.

One of the areas, he said, was the utilisation of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) to finance essential health services, especially for vulnerable people and to improve capacity to address public health emergencies.

“We must consolidate funding for PHC services and essential public health functions. Also, we must increase budgetary allocations for healthcare both at the national and state levels, and explore innovative ways to pool funds for non-contributory healthcare coverage”, he said.

He pointed out that some degrees of effort were already in place to achieve some of the focuses.

He said: “For instance, a good number of States have established State Health Insurance Schemes (SHIS) and have purchased explicit packages of health services for their citizens.

“We have also observed that states are also increasingly taking advantage of the BHCPF programme to expand access to PHC services. Health systems are, undoubtedly, driven by financing arrangements, and this includes the number of funds they receive, and how these funds are distributed and utilised to provide equitable access to services.

“Health financing is a critical building block of the health system that directly affects the functionality of the overall system, and until we address the issue of poor funding for health and the fragmentation of the health financing arrangements in Nigeria, we will make little headway in our pursuit for UHC.

“It is a fact that the right to health is a fundamental human right. However, the ability of our country to guarantee this right for all Nigerians has been slow, largely due to how the health system is financed and delivered. This has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which has exposed significant weaknesses in our health sector, especially the PHCs.”

He also challenged the Health Commissioners’Forum and other stakeholders to ensure PHCs in Nigeria is financed sustainably to ensure risk protection, adequate infrastructure and human resources and the delivery of quality health services.”

On his part, the Vice Chairman of the Health Commissioners’ Forum, Muhammad Lawan Gana, in his remarks, also explained that the Health Commissioners were worried about the poor state of the PHCs in Nigeria which could be linked to poor funding, hence the meeting to chart a new course for the financing of the PHCs.

Gana said that the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for standard and functional PHCs at the sub-national levels into the spotlight. “PHCs are the most promising platform for providing basic essential health interventions and other public health functions, and widely recognised as a key component of all high-performing health systems as well as an essential foundation of UHC.

Gana, who is the Yobe State Commissioner for health recognized that in the last five years, the government at all levels prioritized PHC services, especially with the implementation of key provisions of the 2014 National Health Act, the BHCPF.

He said: “The implementation of BHCPF has catalyzed subnational government consciousness to PHC prioritization, especially with the expansion of social health insurance using publicly funded schemes for the poor and vulnerable populations”.

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