How to make National Health Act work, by doctors

How can the National Health Act (NHA) address the sector’s problem? This is the question stakeholders are seeking answers to one month after the law was passed. Vice President, West African Region (WAR) of the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) Dr Osahon Enabulele said the law is a sign of things to come.

The law, he said, seeks to address health challenges by providing a minimum package of basic healthcare services, including free medical care for children under-five, expectant mothers, the elderly and people with disabilities. Enabulele said the Act would ensure improved funding for primary healthcare (PHC) through the establishment of a Basic Health Provisions Fund (BHPF) to be funded with one per cent of the Consolidated Fund of the Federation (CFF).

Besides, it will provide, protect, promote and fulfill the rights of Nigerians to have unhindered access to health care services. The law, he said, would also tackle medical tourism and its impact on Nigeria; the gross abuse of tax payers’ money by political and public office holders who engage in incessant foreign medical trips. “It provides for stricter regulation of all medical referrals abroad and emphasises greater collaboration between public and private health care facilities in Nigeria,” he said.

Enabulele said political office holders go to other countries for medical care even for conditions that can be managed at home. He said no fewer than 5,000 Nigerians visit India and other countries monthly for medical tourism with many  faced with challenges such as mis-diagnosis, legal and ethical issues, exposure to infectious diseases and other complications, particularly post-surgical complications.

The former Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) president said over N13.6 billion is lost yearly to foreign medical trips. The law, he said, has requirements for Certificate of Needs and Standards (CNS) before setting up public and private health facilities, such as aid regulation, standardisation and due diligence. “It will also promote accountability, monitoring and evaluation of the health system and its performance. “Also, it will guarantee the sustained performance and improvement of the health system and reduce quackery.”

He called on the Federal Government to involve stakeholders in the law’s implementation.President, Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) Dr Felix Faniran noted that the law is silent on the composition of the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH). Faniran said: “We, therefore, recommend that FMoH should be composed of various directorates that will reflect the various healthcare professional groups in the sector.” He said there is need for the Health Minister to call a stakeholders’ forum to discuss the law.

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