Politics

Senate moves to increase budgetary allocation for primary health care

The Senate on Thursday called for an increase in the budgetary allocation for primary health care (PHC) services in Nigeria.

The Senate also urged the Ministry of Health to create awareness on the benefits of health and life insurance.

This call followed a motion on the need for increased funding of primary health care sponsored by Oluremi Tinubu (APC, Lagos Central) and 106 other senators.

In her motion, Mrs Tinubu said a lot of the problems in Nigeria’s health sector can be traced to the low performance of primary health care facilities.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), primary health care will meet 80 to 90 per cent of a person’s health needs in a lifetime.

There have been efforts but the PHC system is dogged by multiple challenges in Nigeria, mainly because billions of naira government at all levels released over the decades for health facilities were mismanaged.

The federal government has also ignored existing and underfunded PHCs and continued to build more across the country without any plan for sustaining and equipping them.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in January 2017, flagged-off a scheme to revitalise about 10,000 PHCs across Nigeria.

But more than a year later, PREMIUM TIMES’ investigation found that very little work had been done.

American businessman and co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, had in 2017, described Nigeria’s primary healthcare system as ‘broken’.

Mrs Tinubu expressed concern over the World Bank Service Delivery Indicators Survey which shows that the performance of the PHC is hampered by lack of financial resources, infrastructure deficit, insufficiency and lack of drugs, equipment and vaccines.

“Failure of PHC and the belief that it is for lower-income earners has led to an influx of patients to secondary and tertiary health care facilities.

“Our secondary and tertiary health care facilities are burdened with treating common ailments that could have been handled at a Primary Health Care Centre.

“The average Nigerian is one illness or tragedy away from poverty and it is distressing to see an upsurge in pleas for crowd funding via social media, to enable access to healthcare facilities,” she said.

She said until accessible and affordable health cover is provided, emergency and non-emergency situations will remain a burden;

In his contribution, Chimaroke Nnamani, said PHC in Nigeria should be a nexus for integrated healthcare services.

He suggested that while PHCs should be properly funded to create better healthcare services, with other basic needs like education, environmental sanitation and prevention of child labour tied to it.

“This PHC will address the issue of education, environmental sanitation and child labour,” he said.

On his part, former governor of IMO state, Rochas Okorocha, noted that many Nigerians cannot afford to pay for treatment hence, the urgent need for increased funding.

“Primary health care should not just be affordable but free. This is because the Constitution requires that the lives of citizens are protected.

“For this to be achieved, it requires partnership between the executive and the legislative. I want to suggest that within that agency, a department should be created for the purpose of monitoring the activities,” he said.

The Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, stressed the need for transparency and credibility in the way resources are used in PHCs.

“We need to oversight very well to ensure that everything is in order,” he said.

The Senate also directed the Ministry of Employment to put in place policies to ensure that every employer of labour has Health Insurance package for employees.

It directed the Ministry of Health to ensure that government backed Health Insurance Scheme is accessible and urged the Ministry of Health at Federal and State levels to encourage medical technological innovation in primary health facilities.

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