14 February 2013

Nigeria: 'New Bill Will Revolutionise Health Sector'

Abuja — A group, National Health Sector Reform Coalition, HRSC, has dismissed the fears of opponents to the National Health Bill which, it says, would revolutionise the sector by making it possible to save one life every minute in the country.

They group said when enacted, the new law will make health care easily accessible to all, including the very poor and vulnerable, while it will abrogate the situation where accident victims sometimes die simply because the hospitals insist on their depositing money before commencing a treatment.

Dr. Muhammed Lecky, Executive Secretary of Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), stated this at a recent press briefing in Abuja.

With him were Dr. Ejike Oji, Country Director of Ipas; Dr. Amina Aminu of PATH2; Hadiza Aminu and Dr. Adekugbe Adeyinka of Save the Children; and Dr. Henry Ewunonu of Nigerian Medical Association.

Responding to issues raised by the opponents of the bill, Ipas Country Director, Dr. Amina Aminu said, "If you say the bill will not be passed until certain clauses are passed, it will lead to a situation where they will lose their mother because the bill is not in place to save her."

The bill had been passed by the last Assembly but President Goodluck Jonathan declined assent ostensibly because some health sector workers were opposed to it for what is generally seen as professional rivalry they are engaged in with medical doctors.

They claimed the document gave preference to medical doctors over other professionals in the sector.

Among other benefits listed by HRSC are that the bill if passed into law would allow Nigerians to have access to the health services they need by removing or reducing financial and physical barriers, and improve the quality of health services in Nigeria.

Lecky said the bill also "provides money through which those who are mostly vulnerable; children, pregnant women, elderly people above 65 and the disabled can have access to health."

He said it equally guaranteed fairness in the allocation of resources or the treatment outcomes among different groups or individuals.

In addition, Lecky said there was robust provision for coordination, financing, expenditure tracking and community participation, which would ensure sustainability while it made adequate provision to improve the performance of the six core functions of the health system.

Justifying these provisions in the draft legislation, the coalition that includes Save the Children, an NGO, said: "Nigeria has achieved only an average of 1.2 per cent reduction in under-five mortality per year since 1990; it needs to achieve an annual reduction rate of 10 per cent from now until 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goal 4"

He continued: "A cursory look at the bill shows that it is a bill of inclusion, which is aimed at protecting and prioritising the rights of Nigerians to get basic minimum health care.

"Right now, there is no safety net for the poor, and anyone in that category who is involved in a motor accident and brought to the hospital without money,would not be attended to. But with the passage of the National Health Bill, such poorest of the poor and accident victims can receive free health care and, by so doing, save lives."

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