Authorities in the health sector have said that with direct focus towards the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), universal health coverage and modern medical equipment in the hospitals, the tales of medical tourism, fatal diseases and major problems in the health sector would be solved.
According to the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Kayode Obembe, “the focus in 2015 in the health sector should be universal health coverage.”
Earlier, in a statement, Obembe said Nigeria can achieve community-based health insurance in the post-millennium development goals by engaging community-based health insurance.
The NMA president said the fund accruing to primary health care as contained in the Health Act should be disbursed through community-based social health insurance which, according to him, “will definitely drive Nigeria towards achieving the goal of universal health coverage, especially in the post-MDG era that starts at the end of 2015.”
Also speaking with Daily Times, the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (CMD-LASUTH), Ikeja, Prof. David Oke, said the focus should be on universal health coverage.
Indisputably, the goal of the universal health coverage is to ensure that everyone obtained the health services they need without suffering financial hardship when paying for them.
“The NHIS has been in existence for over 15 years, but doesn’t have 100 per cent coverage for all Nigerians. Most people covered by the scheme are civil servants and a few multinationals.
The challenge has been that the people who are yet to be employed and the self-employed are yet to be covered by the scheme.”
The CMD said the health coverage should be for everybody. “The government should sell the idea of health insurance coverage to everybody so that people can get access to healthcare.”
Oke also said, the government should also encourage the development of medical services.
This according to him, will reduce the number of people going for medical tourism. “The government should encourage private people in the health sector.
For instance, in India, they give loans to people who are ready to set up hospitals with interest free loans, lands and relaxation of taxes on importation of medical equipment and that should be done in Nigeria. This will encourage doctors in diaspora to come over to Nigeria just like the way people travel to India for medical tourism. The amount taken abroad for treatment especially to India is alarming and that can help provide employment for the unemployed.”
With these, most of the burden of the people will be solved, Oke said.
For the immediate past president of the Guild of Medical Directors, Dr Charles Cudjoe, the three things that will help reshape the health sector in 2015 are access, cost and quality.
Explaining further, he said, “universal health care is the answer.
The government should ensure that every Nigerian have access to health care, such that they can be able to go to the hospital to get treatment because it is basic diseases that are killing Nigerians and they need to benefit from the NHIS.”
Cudjor also calls for the need of a health bank. “We have a Bank of Industry (BoI), so there is need for a Health Bank. Every GSM company in Nigeria should be asked to deduct just N100 for the Health Bank and at the end of the day, that will amount to billions of naira. The money can then be used to sustain the doctors and for health insurance.
“With the Health Bank, loans can be given to those in the health sector who want to set up hospitals or pharmacy with 0 to 5 per cent interest since it is not an oil and gas business.”
He added that every Nigerian needs a good health service and it’s time to act.
“Right now, access to health care needs to be improved, the hospitals in the country need to be upgraded. We’ve talked enough about this, it’s time to start it, and most countries have it. Look at the ObamaCare, aimed at more Americans access to affordable, quality health insurance.”
However, a consultant physician/Hematologist at St Claire Specialist Clinic, Lagos, Dr Chris Otigbuo said, the hospitals need to be well equipped.
“We really don’t have medical hospitals that are well-equipped.
We have the personnel but most of the equipment in the hospitals are broken down. If we want to plan for the average Nigerian, then the hospitals have to be equipped. The government should provide basic infrastructure because the personnels are there,” Otigbuo said.
The NHIS established under Act 35 of 1999 by the Federal Government of Nigeria, is aimed at providing easy access to healthcare for all Nigerians at an affordable cost through various prepayment systems.
NHIS is totally committed to securing universal coverage and access to adequate and affordable healthcare in order to improve the health status of Nigerians, especially for those participating in the various programmes/products of the Scheme.
Given the general poor state of the nation’s health services and the excessive dependence and pressure on Government provided health facilities, with the dwindling funding of healthcare in the face of rising cost, the Scheme is designed to facilitate fair financing of health care costs through pooling and judicious utilization of financial risk protection and cost-burden sharing for people, against high cost of health care through institution of prepaid mechanism, prior to their falling ill.
This of course is in addition to the provision of regulatory oversight on Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and other players in Healthcare delivery.