Nigeria's health minister, Osagie Ehanire, has said his administration will focus on implementing the National Health Act (NHA 2014) as well as other laws, policies and programs geared towards strengthening the health sector.
Mr Ehanire, who was speaking during a two-day retreat with health officials and members of health committees of the National Assembly last week in Abuja, said the Nigerian health sector is yet to record any significant improvement since 1999.
The minister said this is so because the resources were limited and poor policy implementation in the sector falls short of the country's teeming population.
Despite the abundance of polices, laws and programmes initiated over the years, Nigeria's health sector still ranks among the worst in the world. Nigeria is ranked 140 out of 195 countries surveyed in healthcare Access and Quality Index published in the May 18 edition of the medical journal, The Lancet.
Nigeria's National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) was developed in 1962, the scheme did not become operational until 2005. Today, only a fraction of Nigerians is covered the scheme.
"An expanded health insurance coverage will reduce pressure on our tertiary institutions and strengthen them well enough to reduce medical tourism," the minister noted.
National Health Act
PREMIUM TIMES in its series, "Dissecting the NHA", analysed some of the major provisions of the act yet to be fully operationalized. One of them is issuing a certificate of standard to all health institutions in the country.
By this provision, all health institutions in the country are currently operating illegally because they are yet to be issued with a certificate of standard 24 months after the law took effect in 2014 as provided in its Part 2 subsection two.
Mr Ehanire promised that his leadership will ensure rapid implementation of the major provisions of the Act.
He also called for urgent implementation of the National Health Policy 2016 and the National Health Strategic Development plan of 2018 - 2022.
He said the full implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) "will improve the quality of care in rural areas and trigger drastic reduction of the high Out-Of-Pocket spending for health services placed at 76 per cent by the 2017 national health accounts study. This will ultimately reduce the horrific health indices further."
He added that primary healthcare is the cornerstone of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) "which will help in sanitizing other tiers of healthcare delivery in Nigeria".
Mr Ehanire said lawmakers should advocate for adequate and full release of health budgets for prompt interventions by the states and all other tiers.