Efforts by government to reposition and improve the service delivery in the health sector has been hampered by the delay in the passage of the National Health Insurance Scheme Bill currently before the National Assembly.
This was stated by the Chairman of the Federal Government Ministerial Committee on Development of World-Class Hospitals and Diagnostic Centers, Tony Elumelu, who briefed journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
He said the delay in the passage of the bill is stifling efforts targeted at improving the health sector in Nigeria and was making it difficult to free the resources needed to develop the sector.
According to him, the lack of funds have led to the non-completion of 84 hospital projects across Nigeria, adding that this was hampering efforts to halt the movement of Nigerians to India and South Africa, in search of treatment for ailments that could easily be handled locally.
“Our committee believe that everyone should urge the National Assembly to help pass the NHIS bill into law as that will unlock a lot of opportunities in the health sector.
“That will provide the much needed effective demand of funding that will help the sector to take off. If our Senate and the House of Representatives do not pass the NHIS bill we won’t achieve much.
“So as our lawmakers go back to their constituencies to seek election mandate, we should ask them to please give us the National Health Bill and the NHIS Bill that will help us as a country make progress in this space. We can sit down and set up modern facilities if there is no money to make this sector attractive then it will collapse over time,” he said.
He disclosed that the committee during its meeting with the President discussed how to fast-track the setting up of six world-class medical facilities and diagnostic centers in each of the six geo-political zones in the country.
“This is an assignment that the committee members are seriously committed to. We believe that the health sector is key for the development of a country, human capital is important and you have to have a healthy workforce for a country to develop. We are happy that this administration is seriously committed to pushing things forward in this case,”he said.
Mr. Elumelu also said the committee has updated the president on the journey so far.
“We took statistics of hospital projects in the country that have not been completed, we came up with 84 hospital projects across the country. We shared this with Mr. President.
“Our intent is to see how this committee working with his government can help to bring closure in terms of completion of these hospitals so that our people will stop traveling to India, South Africa and other places for medical attention and care. We believe that our people deserve good medical facilities, attention and care at this age and time.
“We commend what the Minister of Agriculture has done, that is what the Health Minister is also trying to do. To re-position the heath sector in Nigeria from being perceived as a social service to one that is commercially viable sector to invest in just as what we have achieved in the agricultural transformation of this administration,” he said.
On what the private sector is bringing into the development of world class health facilities, Mr. Elumelu said unless the bill was passed, the sector could not open up opportunities for further contributions into the sector.
“You know private sector’s investment is inelastic and a function of enabling environment and how attractive the sector is, and that is why you and I have to get the Senate and House of Reps to pass the NHIS bill,” he said.
He also disclosed that, “One of the quick wins of the meeting is a realization by some of our medical investors here, some of our doctors who came with us that they can have zero waivers on importation of medical facilities and equipment.
“Dr. Onobawale who is a member of the committee and Managing Director of Reddington, was at the meeting and was shocked that this existed. He has been promised by the president and the CME that if he applies he would get it approved. In fact the president used the word “automatically”. That is part of what this committee is doing to help make sure that we make progress in the health sector.
“I know what an hour of my time costs and same applies to other members of our committee, and these are private sector people who are committed. We have been having meetings since 10, trying to finalize our ideas on how to make this work. We have members who flew from outside the country, as far away as America to make this work.
“So, we are doing quite a lot in terms of putting our resources and expertise into making this work. But more importantly, the private sector is ready to invest in this sector, but to invest in this sector, because private sector is not a social service, we want all the enabling environment and initiative that will make it work to be in place.
“The good news to all Nigerians is that the meeting with the president was wonderful, he supported our recommendations, so did the CME, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the minister of health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu”
“So, hopefully as we implement these recommendations, we urge also other government agencies that will play a role in implementing parts of the recommendations to help us make sure that this is done expeditiously.”