Nigeria: Universal Health Coverage for 55m Nigerians Minimum Target - Osinbajo

Achieving Universal Health Coverage for all Nigerians is the focus and essence of the Health Reform Report and Draft Bills proposed by the Presidential Health Reform Committee, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who chaired the group.

Osinbajo stated this yesterday in his remarks at the presentation of the report of the Presidential Health Reform to President Muhammadu Buhari, on the sideline of the valedictory Federal Executive Council meeting at the Council Chambers.

Speaking on the recommendations in the report, the VP in a statement by his media aide, Laolu Akande said, "The committee is mindful that investing in health will enable our country to unlock its immense potentials and ensure that all Nigerians, regardless of their social class, can access quality health services.

"Mr. President, achieving Universal Health Coverage for Nigerians is really the essence of this report.

"This is to be realised through the prioritization of government spending on health and boosting of per capita health expenditure by scaling up the National Health Insurance System as the preferred public financing arrangement.

"This approach is one where the National or State Health Insurance Authorities would benefit from general budget transfers from the relevant Federal or State government," the VP added.

Highlighting components of the report, Osinbajo said, "The report therefore recommends healthcare guarantee for all Nigerians registered on the National Social Register, currently 12 million registered households, (equivalent to about 55 million Nigerians). The report further recommends that the share of total health expenditure flowing through our health insurance schemes must be more than 10%."

Continuing, the VP noted that "we have proposed a number of institutional changes, including the establishment of the National Tertiary Health Institutions Commission (whose function is similar to that of the National Universities Commission) and the National Quality and Healthcare Standards Commission (NQHSC)."

He said: "in view of obvious funding constraints, the Committee hesitated to recommend new institutions. However, on balance, we agreed that for us to make progress with our human capital agenda, these institutions are essential."

Other recommendations, according to Osinbajo "vary from Human Resources in Health (HRH) issues such as 'brain drain' to the expansion of access to primary health care services, medical tourism, and mobilizing or leveraging private capital for health investments as well as their role in expanding the supply of health workers for Nigeria in the medium and long term."

In addition, "this report recommends that vaccine manufacturing in Nigeria should be seen from a perspective of national health security rather than purely as a commodity production," the VP noted.

Acknowledging the difficulties associated with implementing such reforms, Prof. Osinbajo stated that "there would be a need for global expertise and collaboration. In this regard, local and international development partners are much needed."

He also disclosed the proposal for "a programme Delivery Unit in the office of the President. This independent but empowered unit would monitor and drive the reforms. Important parts of the report are the draft National Health Amendment Bill and draft amendments of other relevant bills."

Members of the committee are Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State who represented State Governors, Sen. Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe from the National Assembly, Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health; Mr. Alex Okoh Director-General, BPE; Prof. Ibrahim Abubakar, Professor in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, University College London and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health; Mr Babatunde Irukera, Director General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council; Dr Adedamola Dada; Dr Sani Aliyu and Dr Mairo Mandara.

Other are Dr Haliru Yahaya, Emir of Shonga; Prof. Uche Amazigbo; Director Hospital Services, Federal Ministry of Health; Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA); Prof. Nasiru Sambo, Director General/Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA); Dr Ifedayo Morayo Adetifa, DG, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and Dr Gambo Aliyu, Director-General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA).

Dr Betta Edu (the then Chairman Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum, representing National Council on Health); Dr. Uche Rowland Ojinmah, President, Nigeria Medical Association, Prof. Cyril Usifoh; President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Mr Michael Nnachi; President, National Association of Nigeria Nurses & Midwives, Dr Toyosi Raheem; President, Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria; Mrs Temi Marcella Awogboro; Dr Muhammad Sadiq; Dr Azubike Tagbo and World Health Organisation, Nigeria, also served as members of the committee.

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