The Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to reposition Nigeria’s healthcare delivery system must include collaboration among different levels of government and the private sector to ensure effective implementation of reforms that will cater to the needs of Nigerians in the 21st century.
This was stated by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, today in Abuja at the opening of a two-day Presidential Health Reform Committee Retreat.
“We must recognize that reforms can be complex. And the lessons learnt are there, no silver bullets and no perfect approaches. This is especially true in huge areas such as healthcare. Previous efforts must be taken into account you may have several small and even local reforms going on at different times,” the Vice President noted.
According to the VP, while acknowledging the contributions of past administrations, reforming the health sector remains a front burner issue for this administration.
He said the ongoing efforts will ”chart out a health System that best meets the needs of Nigerians in the 21st century, with special emphasis on strengthening Primary Health Care, improving access to Health Insurance, and establishing a platform that enables the country to better respond to future pandemics.”
Continuing, he said, “what is crucial is that we set the broad parameters and vision for the health care system we desire for our people, we adopt a flexible approach that enables us track and incorporate other reform initiatives.
“We ensure that we always have the right people around the table, that there is wide ranging consultation, and that all views are properly considered, that we keep our vision clear through the process and we develop a robust and viable implementation process.”
Noting the lessons from the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the VP emphasized that “healthcare, especially public health emergencies cannot but have a multi-disciplinary, multi sector approach…. serious health reform must have the same multisectoral approach.”
Speaking further on the need to improve the country’s healthcare system through effective collaboration between states and federal goverments, Prof. Osinbajo noted while previous attempts had been made in the past, the implementation has “either been incomplete, non-systemic or haphazard.”
Pointing out the constitutional responsibility of State Governments in ensuring primary and secondary healthcare, while participating in tertiary healthcare, the VP noted that “any reform without the full participation of the States will fall short of a national health reform effort.”
Highlighting the core objectives of the Presidential Health Reform Committee, the Vice President stated that addressing question of universal health coverage remained the key objective of the reform process.
The VP further noted some significant efforts made by the Buhari administration to address challenges and lay important building blocks for reforming the health sector.
“These included the signing of the bill establishing the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), by the President in 2018, to enable the agency to respond to the challenges of public health emergencies and enhance Nigeria’s preparedness and response to epidemics through prevention, detection, and control of communicable diseases.
“In May this year, President Buhari also signed into law the National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022. The VP noted this was “an important milestone for health financing in Nigeria, as it will mitigate the current difficulties of out-of-pocket expenses and create a virtuous cycle.”
“It means that more money will be available for payment of medical personnel and for hospital facilities and resources. Ultimately health insurance will accelerate our journey to universal health coverage through health insurance for all categories of Nigerians via a mandatory mechanism, in collaboration with State health insurance agencies,” he added.
Prof. Osinbajo also highlighted the focus of the Primary Healthcare Summit held earlier this year, “towards re-imagining primary healthcare in Nigeria, where a case was made for private partner partnerships to complement on improving infrastructure, availability of health commodities, health workforce and use of evidence to deploy resources.”
Addressing the objective of attaining universal health coverage, the Vice President acknowledged and commended the efforts at the sub-national level of the 36 State Governors. This included the recent launching of the Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge Fund.
“All of these events and others are points of progress which must now coalesce into one central programme,” the VP observed.
Prof. Osinbajo also commended the commitment of development partners, noting that the Committee’s membership reflected a broad representation for effective collaboration.
According to the VP, “in the past few months, the secretariat of this committee has been working in conjunction with our various partners to develop a Consultation paper that is expected to guide and focus the discussions. This includes experts from the Ministry of Health, Vesta, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, WHO, World Bank, FCDO, IFC, Global fund, AFENET, DPRC (the research arm of NIPSS) and PWC, a team of wide-ranging specialists.
“The overarching principle of this process has been inclusivity. This is reflected in the membership of this committee which includes representation from the States, professional healthcare bodies, private sector, distinguished medical academicians. You will also note that I approved the co-option of additional MDAs, sub-national representation facilitated by the Nigeria Governors Forum and the Commissioners of Health Forum, NGOs as well individuals with experience in the business of health.”
It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had in September 2021, approved the establishment of a Health Sector Reform Committee and appointed the Vice President as Chair of the Committee, which was officially inaugurated by VP Osinbajo in January 2022.
Urging for all hands-on deck towards improving Nigeria’s health indices, the Vice President stated that “I have no doubt that we have the right calibre of people on this committee to address the myriad challenges of the health sector.”
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire delivered the opening remarks at the event while Director of Health Planning, Research and Statistics in the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Ngozi Azodo presented a paper on “Lessons Learnt from Previous Reforms”.
Other speakers were Dr. Assad Hassan from the Coordinating Office of the Reform Committee and Dr. Michael Turnwait, a research consultant.
Members of the committee present at the event included Emir of Shonga, HRH, Dr Haliru Yahaya; DG, Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Mr Alex Okoh; DG, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Mr Tunde Irukera; DG, Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Ifedayo, Adetifa; Former Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu; Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Prof Akin Abayomi, and Lead Coordinator, Presidential Health Reform Committee, Dr Nicholas Audifferen, who moderated the event, among others.