Nigeria’s health minister, Osagie Ehanire, has said the country does not have enough primary health care centres for its citizens.
He said the country has barely one-third of Primary Health Centres (PHC) required to provide quality health services to the people.
Mr Ehanire, while speaking at the Ministerial Health Sector Media Engagement on Monday, said there were plans to address the challenges of PHCs and bring healthcare closer to every Nigerian.
He noted that the government is committed to ensuring there is a functional primary healthcare centre in each political ward in the country
“The Next Level Agenda Strategy aims to revitalise one PHC in each political ward.
“We have barely one-third of the required 9,855 PHCs, which define Universal Health Care, to bring health closer to the people and begin to address Nigeria’s horrendous health indices,” he said.
PHC system in Nigeria is dogged by multiple challenges despite concerted efforts. This is largely because billions of naira, reportedly spent over the decades on health facilities by the government at different levels, were mismanaged.
Again, there is an element of misplaced priority.
While hundreds of PHCs lie in waste, governments have continued to build more across the country without any plan for sustaining and equipping them.
Because of such shortfalls, President Muhammadu Buhari, in January 2017, flagged-off a scheme to revitalise about 10,000 PHCs across Nigeria.
But little work has been done as many PHCs still lack basic facilities.
Mr Ehanire said the next level agenda also targets to reduce health-related gaps in Sustainable Development Goals by 60 per cent.
Mr Ehanire noted that the ministry intends to achieve its objectives through the implementation of the expanded PHC service, mandatory health insurance and the operationalisation of the National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance system.
“Our ministry is responsible for the National Health System and its performance. It provides strategic support to states local government areas, the private sector and development partners,” he said.
The minister noted that the COVID-19 pandemic presented the opportunity to restructure the country’s health system.
He said although Nigeria’s health system has not fared badly, it still needs to be re-examined.
“All countries will no doubt be reexamining their Health systems which is why it has been said that the COVID-19 outbreak offers an opportunity to restructure, or even rebuild health systems,” he said.
In his remarks, the representative of Civil Society Organisation (CSOs), Oladapo Ladipo, called for the implementation of Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) which, he said, will enable individuals both at the rural and urban areas to have access to quality health care services.
He said health care delivery should focus on prevention.
“When we focus on preventing some of the diseases, we will have less work to do in the health sector.
“We do not have to spend much resources on treatment of diseases,” he said.
He explained that the health sector in a country determines how developed the economy of the country is at a given point in time.
“If we look at developed economy they always prioritize health. The government is always responsible for health care management. In our country, the approach is different, we need to be proactive,” he said.
In his remarks, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Walter Mulombo, commended the government for tracking the level of achievements of the health sector next level agenda towards UHC.
He said ”this indicates the intention of the health team to ensure that effort painstakingly made so far within this administration amount to desired impact in the lives of the Nigeria people.”
He noted that the WHO will continue to work with the government to leverage the Polio legacy in revitalising PHC for mothers and children.
“In order to make this work better for the people of Nigeria, we have already commenced key reforms through the Triple Billion Goal of the GPW13 and the CCSIII which are clearly aligned to the NSHDPII to support Nigeria priorities of primary healthcare and health financing as clear accelerators within the Global Action Plan for Healthy Lives and well-being for all,” he said.
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