23 December 2007

Nigeria: 'Why We Introduced Free Health Services'

Enugu — Enugu State Government has flagged-off free maternal and child healthcare programme under which all pregnant women and children not more than five years in the state will get free medical treatment.

At a ceremony to flag-off the programme in the state, the state governor, Sullivan Chime, explained that the idea of introducing the programme was with the hope that it will reduce the maternal and under-five mortality rate.

Explaining that children will continue to enjoy such free medical services until they are five years, the governor said the progamme is aimed at assisting the less privileged who may not have the resources to pay for medical services.

According to him, "what the programme seeks to provide are that all pregnant women in Enugu State will have free ante natal services including laboratory tests. All the deliveries will be free even if it is by operation or with blood transfusions. Post-natal checkups will also be free".

On children, he said, "all children in Enugu State will be treated free until they are five years old".

He explained that the services will be available in government hospitals, until when modalities on how to include the private hospitals are worked out.

Chime explained that the programme was a deliberate framework for government to save women and children in Enugu State from preventable deaths and thereby protect their future.

He assured that the Health Insurance Scheme in the state when launched would be helpful in expanding the programme, especially to include private hospitals.

The governor said the government in realising the large amount of money that the programme will take has provided for it in the 2008 budget.

He added that with the programme, there will be the need to procure more medical equipment, recruit more health personnel and train more people as part of the grand design to make the scheme successful.

He added, "the free maternal and child healthcare programme fits very well into the District Health System (DHS) which is the mainstay of our health reform programme in Enugu State. The law was passed in 2005 and its major objective is to integrate the primary and secondary healthcare services in the state. It provides for efficient coordination and supervision of the health services in the state. The District Health System provides for State and Local Government funding of health services in the state".

The Health Minister, Prof. Adenike Grange, who attended the flag-off ceremony at Udi Local Government Area described the health programme as a good development, and a policy that will impact very positively in the lives of the people of the state.

Grange pointed out that since the country is a signatory to the United Nation Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), such health programme would go a long way in reducing the high mortality rate in the country.

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