Minister calls for more PPP initiative to achieve universal health coverage

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has called for the improved and continuous partnership between the private sector and the government towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Ehanire made this call during a virtual Annual General Meeting and 30th anniversary of the Guild of Medical Directors, Lagos Chapter,  on Saturday.

The theme was ‘Post COVID Era: Economics and Healthcare Delivery in Nigeria’ challenges the abysmal state of the healthcare and impact of the pandemic on the economy.

The minister said the private sector constitutes about 80 per cent and they are vital contributors to the country’s health and development.

On the adverse effect of COVID-19 and the #EndSARS protest, Ehanire noted that Lagos State suffered more from the adverse effects of COVID-19 and the #EndSARS protest.

"Lagos has suffered more from COVID-19 and its aftermath as well as the adverse effect of the #EndSARS protest. Just when things were about to pick up, the #EndSARS protest further affected the state.”

He, however, stressed the need to improve the nation’s health system in line with globally acceptable practice, and called for the modernisation of the nation’s health care system.

Ehanire said the financial services of the Central Bank of Nigeria should be explored to improve the nation’s health system.

He also lauded the guild’s efforts in changing the narratives of the health system.

The Minister of State, Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora said the appearance of a new disease, and its progression to the declaration of global pandemic status was challenging for healthcare providers.

"The advent of the pandemic has brought with it apprehension, concern for a nation with weak healthcare infrastructure, personal concern and concern for friends, and finally concern for the economic impact on a nation.

"The private sector and private individuals in enlightened self interest, seeing as travelling abroad for treatment was not an option, stepped in.

"They funded and built emergency isolation centres, hurriedly acquired ventilators and personal protective equipment for short term emergency use,” he said.

Mamora said the reality seems to be that the impact of the pandemic on Nigeria may have been more economic than direct public health thus far.

The pioneer Managing Director of Guaranty Trust Bank,  Fola Adeola, said COVID-19 or not, the country needs more infectious disease treatment capabilities.

"We cannot take our eyes off Lassa fever, cholera, and the other diseases that were with us before COVID-19 came along, because they have not gone away.

"We need to train and adequately incentivise our health workers, and we need to bring a level of health awareness to our population,” he said.

Adeola, however, called for judicious application of the limited resources to making whole the abandoned or incomplete facilities located in high-density areas where it would be utilized, COVID-19 or not.

He stressed the need to continue to upgrade the knowledge of hospital staff, and teach them to recognize disease presentation.

"We can inject funding into the pharmaceutical and medical equipment industries and start to produce more frequently used drugs/items locally.

The President of the Guild, Prof. Femi Babalola, said the year had been extremely challenging for all Nigerians, and especially for those in the private practice.

"We have also had to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdowns and all. We all find ourselves in the frontline of health care, daily exposing ourselves to the possibility of infection while attending to our patients.

"And in spite of these dangers, we have soldiered on with very little support from outside our own efforts.

"Indeed, we have lost some of our members to the COVID-19 crises,” he said.

Babalola estimated that about 2,500 health workers had been infected with the disease out of a total of 60,000 infections nationwide.

He said the GMD was involved in the Frontline health-workers Foundation of Nigeria (FHWFN), and the National Emergencies Medical Services and Ambulance System (NEMSAS).

Babalola said FHWFN was set up to include all the major medical and paramedical associations in Nigeria including Doctors, Nurses, pharmacists and Lab technicians, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The essence of the foundation is the welfare of frontline health workers, particularly in pandemic situations.

"It has given a platform for interaction between the major players in the health industry in Nigeria,” he said.