By Chinelo Obogo
Former governor of Ondo State, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko has said that it is the sole responsibility of the government at the federal and state levels to fund free healthcare especially for women and children.
Speaking at the maiden scientific conference of the Association of Fetomaternal Medicine Specialists of Nigeria (AFEMSON) in Lagos yesterday, Mimiko who spoke on the topic, ‘Gains and Challenges of Free Maternal Healthcare’ refuted the notion that the government has no business funding healthcare.
Citing the healthcare system during his tenure, he said that even though Ondo had the highest mother and child mortality rate in the country when he assumed office, his administration was able to provide free quality healthcare which he said was affirmed to be the best in the country.
He said: “Government has the responsibility to fund healthcare especially for women and children. No one should lie to us that the government has no business funding healthcare. During my tenure, I ensured Ondo had the best healthcare system in the country even though what I met on ground was shambolic. Four to five women die every hour during childbirth and 80 to 90 die everyday just trying to bring life into the world.
“I am a firm believer in universal health coverage where everyone receives the healthcare that they need. It is the responsibility of the government to fund healthcare especially for women and children and no politician should be believed when he says that it is not the responsibility of the government to provide free or subsidised healthcare.
“Maternal health is regarded as a woman’s right and universal health coverage is the ultimate expression of fairness and equity. It makes a country prosperous because only healthy citizens can create wealth. A country cannot get wealthy when women die everyday. Matching resources with health should always be a continuous exercise. If we had all the resources, then we would not need the government, but because we do not, the function of the government is to manage resources and prioritise. Every society must put maternal and child health at the starting point for universal health coverage. Apart from the economic advantage, giving birth is a process of perpetuating the human race. Women should not be allowed to die while giving birth and the government at all levels has an obligation to prevent maternal death.
“The most cost effective way of preventing child mortality rate is through immunisation which can save a child from paralysis.
“While I was in my private practice before I became governor, I experienced first-hand the pains that mothers go through when they lose their children. I can never forget the cry of a woman at night when she loses her child. That was why when I became governor, I vowed within myself that I was going to do everything within my power to drastically reduce the mother and child mortality rate.
“Ondo state used to have the worst mortality rate in the country. Women died in the state in their numbers on a daily basis while giving birth, and I was determined to change that. We had only four consultants in the state, but by the time I left, the consultants were 70, and we constantly sent our doctors ans nurses abroad for training.”