From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Nigerian Academy of Medicine (NAMed), has linked the poor health care services being “enjoyed” by Nigerians to poor health insurance services in which millions of Nigerians are forced to adopt out-of-pocket payment for health care services.
The Academy insisted that, going by the attitude of political leaders in Nigeria and the state of the economy, government alone cannot afford to provide adequate funding for health care services, hence the need for adequate and efficient compulsory health insurance services for Nigerians.
NAMed President, Prof. Sam Ohaegbulam, in his remarks after being sworn-in as the pioneer President of the Academy in Abuja, cited the examples of countries especially in North Africa and Europe, that developed and adopted efficient and effective compulsory health insurance system and the mileage they have gained in terms of quality and affordable health care services to the people.
Prof. Ohaegbulam said: “I have used all the available opportunities I had to address the issue of national health insurance services because I believe that part of the challenges we have in quality health care service delivery is poor funding and health insurance is the only answer to that challenge.
“Health insurance is largely the answer to Nigeria’s poor health care services. Without compulsory successful health insurance, Nigeria cannot generate enough revenue to tackle the health challenges of its people. If someone cannot pay for the health insurance premium, government or family members can help to pay rather than contributing and spending millions of Naira for surgery instead of enrollment in health insurance to enjoy the services at a reduced cost.
“Evidently, we don’t have adequate resources to fund the health care services in Nigeria. To dramatize this, the Federal Government’s 2022 budget for health is N195 billion. That’s very poor. The Research Institute of Massachusetts hospital in US has a budget of $1 billion. Imagine what the whole hospital will have as a budget.
“In 2014, there was a publication on 10 best African countries to invest in terms of health and Nigeria was second on the list, next to South Africa. But in the recent publication released in 2021, Nigeria felt out completely. Egypt moved from sixth position to first, and the reason was because they embraced efficient health insurance system.
“Obviously, North African countries are doing marvelously well in health insurance services, and that’s the reason they offer improved quality health care services to their people. Unarguably, we have health insurance in Nigeria but it’s not as efficient as it ought to be.”
He, thus, challenged the members of NAMed to take up that responsibility to ensure that the system works. “We may continue to lament and blame politicians for as long as we want, but we have our own roles to play as key stakeholders in the health sector.”
He, however, appreciated the long efforts of National Assembly members and other stakeholders which culminate in the signing of the new National Health Insurance Act (NHIA), and demanded expedite action in the implementation of the new NHIA Act so that more people would come into the pool and enjoy quality and affordable health care services without paying from their pockets.
As the founder of Memfy hospital for neurosurgeon, Enugu, Prof. Ohaegbulam, said that people spend their hard-earned savings in search of health, but that could improve if there is efficient and effective compulsory health insurance services.
Meanwhile, Emeritus Prof. Nimi Briggs, in a lecture titled “2023 and beyond: setting the health agenda” highlighted the steps to be taken to rescue Nigeria’s health from its falling state.
He accused the elites in Nigeria of being part of the reason for the failing health care system in Nigeria. “Many Nigerians especially the elites, hold the public health system in disdain and would rather not patronize it except as a last resort in cases dire emergencies.
“From issues of lack of equipment, dilapidated buildings, and infrastructures to filthy environment, poor utilities, long delay in service delivery, frustrated and unfriendly staff with poor work ethics and much more, Nigerians have always registered their dissatisfaction and disapproval with the state of public health care system at every time.”
He charged the NAMed to champion a cause that would herald a turnaround for good of the public health care system in Nigeria so that both the elites and other Nigerians can confidently patronize the system.