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Journalists set agenda for Nigeria’s new health minister

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  • List 7 key areas for urgent attention

New Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire (Right) and Minister of State for Health, Senator Adeleke Mamora

Journalists under the aegis of the Health Writers Association of Nigeria, (HEWAN), on Friday September 6, listed seven key areas that must be urgently addressed by the new Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire and his Minister of State, Senator Adeleke Mamora, to revive the nation’s battered health care delivery system.

In a Press Release signed by the President and Secretary  of the association, Chioma Obinna and Lucy Osuizigbo respectively, the journalists commended president Muhammadu Buahri for the appointment which they described as “putting the right peg in the right hole”, saying the appointment  would bring the needed change to the nation’s health sector. 

They called on the new ministers to urgently focus their attention on key areas of the nation’s healthcare delivery system which have been neglected over the years and urgently:

  • Implement Primary Health Care Policies and adequately fund the PHCs
  • Provide healthcare services for the elderly
  • Improve laboratory services to address problem of medical negligence and misdiagnosis
  • Address maternal and child mortality and morbidity
  • End rivalry among health workers
  • Increase budgetary allocation to health sector.
  • Make health insurance functional and mandatory

“Today, there is no gainsaying the fact that the task of a minister of health is a difficult one following the myriads of challenges bedeviling the sector, ranging from poor funding, huge disease burden, population explosion, poverty and high maternal mortality, among others.

“However, as stakeholders in the Nigerian health sector, we are constrained to state that the newly appointed ministers understand the system, the challenges and bottlenecks – as one of them worked closely with his predecessor, Prof.  Isaac Adewole, the immediate past minister,” the statement said

While noting the new Minister’s pledge to overhaul the secondary and tertiary health institutions in the country to reduce medical tourism, the journalists said the seven listed priorities must be urgently addressed by the ministers to revitalize the nation’s health care delivery system.

The association submitted that the nation’s disease burden would drop drastically if the ministers could make primary healthcare canters more viable and recommended that the minister should  continue with the 10,000 primary health centres project across the country that was initiated by his predecessor.

“There is an urgent need to put in place measures to address the healthcare needs of the elderly and retirees in the country, because old age comes with some unavoidable associated ailments of which they cannot afford to manage on their own,” the statement further said.

HEWAN also noted that many laboratory facilities in the country are currently “moribund” and urged the minister to revitalized them for better treatment outcomes “as medical laboratory remains the bedrock of medical treatment.

“There is the need for improved efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity, which have continued to be on the increase.  Also, there is the need to investigate and prosecute cases of negligence in the hospitals to serve as deterrent and build confidence in the health system.”

On the need to stop the constant wrangling among health workers, the journalists said: “paying attention to the inter-professional rivalry in the public health sector should be among the first steps by the new health minister. There should be zero tolerance for discord in the sector.

“As a matter of necessity without prejudice, the age-long inter- and intra-professional rivalries, discord, acrimony, and crisis that have always thrown the Nigerian health sector into unending and perennial discord should be tackled. This has always been described in some quarters as ‘irreconcilable differences’ and ‘cold war.’

“What this has brought to the Health Sector is retrogression, stagnation, motion without movement, etc. It has eroded patient-centred practices, (which is) openly demonstrated in public health institutions.  This has gone unabated for years. Patients have suffered the consequences in no small way. This has greatly led to the loss of confidence in our Health Sector too.”

The association also traced the endless brain drain, now a major challenge in Nigeria’s health care delivery,  to inadequate budgetary provision.

“A 2017 poll by the Nigerian Polling Organisation (NOI) found that over 90 per cent of medical doctors in the country intends to seek employment opportunities abroad because of low job satisfaction, poor remuneration and high deductibles from their salaries,” the statement further said,  urging the minister to ensure that the problem is properly addressed during his tenure.

HEWAN further declared that Nigeria would not be able to achieve Universal Health Coverage if health insurance remain optional as it is currently being implemented and therefore called on the new health minister to make the scheme mandatory and functional.

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