If the Federal Government goes ahead with plans it has so far made, apex public health institutions like the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) Enugu, University College Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH) Zaria, among others, will be put up for sale or rather privatisation, soon.
But health workers have rejected such plans. Last week, they, excluding medical doctors, petitioned President Muhammadu Buhari over the plans to privatise the health sector and vowed to resist what they have called “a version of reforms in healthcare that are self-serving in terms of their narrow commercial interests and those of foreign pay-masters.”
The plan by the Federal Government to ‘sell’ public health institutions was confirmed in a document prepared by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) in November 2014 titled “Recommendations for a National Policy on Incentivising Healthcare Investments.”
Because of the success recorded by reforms in the telecom, energy and banking sectors, advocates of the sale option believe it will bring in additional private capital that will encourage better quality care at the lowest cost and improved benefits to all stakeholders in the sector.
That in turn, according to them, would guarantee an economic imperative to invest into healthcare for a healthier population.
It will also stem the pressure on the naira from foreign capital flight due to outward bound medical tourism.
The health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU)/Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) alleged that the health sector is one of those sectors placed under the supervision of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and that six doctors including agents of Western donor agencies in Lagos State that championed the commercialisation of health facilities were charged with the responsibility of crafting the health policy of the Buhari administration.
The health workers said one of the key recommendations of the six-man committee was to canvass a “reform of the Federal Ministry of Health and reduce the number of agencies from 14 to three based on alignment of scope and deliverables.”
The health workers had alleged that the Buhari administration has sought views and position papers on healthcare agenda from strange templates, especially a particular group of entrepreneurs in healthcare rather than the true representatives of healthcare providers who are well structured into various healthcare professional associations and trade unions.
They further alleged that the pecuniary motives of the entrepreneurs in healthcare who belong to an array of professions and background remain an inclination to access funds provided by the International Finance Corporation (IFC). “They plan to lord their concept of privatisation and commercialisation on the health sector, notwithstanding the damaging effects it will bring to consumers of health services and the economy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is apt to put on record that the operatives of International Finance Corporation who are citizens of Nigeria have no respect for our laws,” they said.
The health workers added: “They insist on a version of reforms in healthcare that are self-serving in terms of their narrow commercial interests and those of their foreign pay-masters.
“The team has been canvassing the agenda of bringing foreign chain retail promoters in pharmacy practice into Nigeria for instance.”
The health workers warned that foreign company domination prevents Nigeria from building capacity through Nigerian providers.