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Expert advocates for policy to make health priority in Nigeria

By Hassan Zaggi

Concerned by the poor funding of the health sector and the consequent brain drain of healthcare workers to other countries of the world, the Grand Patron of National Advocates for Health (NA4H) in Nigeria. Prof. Oladapo Ladipo, has advocated for a policy that will make health a priority in Nigeria.   
He stated this when speaking at a two-day meeting with youth leaders and civil society groups from across Nigeria, in Abuja, yesterday.
The two-day meeting was organised by the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH).
Prof Ladipo lamented that the Nigeria’s health system is dysfunctional and epileptic.
He explained that: “My own understanding of the reason for that assumption is very simple. Health is not a priority for the Nigerian government constitutionally. It is not. Two years ago it was number 11, last year it was number 8 or so and again when you look at the allocation to the health sector despite the Abuja Declaration of allocating 15 per cent, Nigeria has never gone beyond 5 or 5.5 per cent of the national budget.
While lamenting that thousands of Nigerian health workers are leaving the country due to poor remuneration and working environment, the globally renown health expert said: “We have succeeded in human production for export in this country and we don’t understand the implication for national underdevelopment. We have exported all brains out of this country in all spheres of life.  But let me zoom in the medical field.
“Over 2.3 to 2.5 Nigerian doctors are in UK. If you remove all of them, the national health of that country will collapse before tomorrow morning.
“We have over 6000 doctors in US, all at the highest level of performance. Can you imagine if all of them return back home just like some of us returned back home in the 70s. what a great country Nigeria will be.”
He insisted that there must be a policy change.
A policy, according to him,  “that will make health a priority. Since security is number one, health should be number two. A healthy nation is a wealthy nation. It is in a healthy population that you can have a creative, productive, innovative nation. Nigerians are some of the brightest people in the world”
He argued that: “Above all, we need to ensure that we can retain our doctors and nurses and other health workers. The country is hemorrhaging. We are producing them but we are exporting them.
“The National Assembly must make every effort to ensure that doctors are retained. The best way to retain them is to remunerate them very well.
“Make their working environment conducive. Give them the wherewithal to practice their skill. This is because if the money is not enough to give them a good quality of life and they don’t have the wherewithal to practice, common sense will say emigrate to other countries. We have exported most of our doctors.”
Speaking, the Chairman, NA4H, Hon. Usman Mohammed, called for partnership among Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in the health sector in order to get result.
“We know that there are challenges of non-release of the budget, challenges of non- performance, poor execution, leakages at all levels, especially, in the states.
“Most of you are from the states, what we want to see is that interest and demanding accountability. For example, the BHCPF, when all the provisions are implemented fully, Nigeria should be better than what it is today. Poor indices on maternal, child, newborn  will all improve.
“Under the BHCPF, every health facility will be receiving over I million naira. There is also the NHIS, people must put eyes on the money because it is our collective wealth,” the NA4H Chair tells the representatives of the NGOs.  
On his part, Dr. Uwem Esiet, lamented that Nigeria does not have enough human resources for health.
He noted that even the ones available are not evenly distributed to all parts of the country.
“If you look at the distribution, I am sure that most of the doctors in Abuja are in the main city. The rural areas are having low distribution of doctors. Inequity is going to continue to traumatize all of us.”
He, however, insisted that: “We need a paradign shift in Nigeria.”
On the other hand, the Chairman,  House Committee on Health, Hon.Tanko Sununu, regretted that greed has become  endemic among the elites in Nigeria, which, according to him, is the bane of the nation’s development.  
Represented by his deputy, Hon. Babatunde Adejere, Dr. Sununu called for the revamping of the primary health care sector  for the entire health system to develop.
“These issues we are discussing are not only peculiar to health. It is a general thing in the country. This country is the world capital of nepotism. What we see sometimes during oversight, we don’t put it out for national cohesion and security.
“There is a law that is coming for NHIS to be mandatory for everybody so that people will not spend out of their pockets to access healthcare.
“If we don’t get primary health care right, we cannot get the health sector right. It is the simple way to get health to our people,” he stressed.

Written by ExpressDay

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