Stakeholders in health sector note that the recent decision by the National Assembly to implement the 2014 National Health Act is an indication that healthcare delivery in the country, particularly at primary level, is inefficient.
President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, said the Senate would implement the act, including the one per cent consolidated fund to enhance funding of the country’s healthcare system, although the implementation was not included in the proposed 2018 budget.
Saraki observed that the act “stipulates that one per cent of consolidated fund should be set aside for healthcare provision’’.
Appraising the decision of the Senate, concerned citizens observe that primary healthcare services in Nigeria are deficient and should be revitalised through additional funding and political will.
According to them, the determination of the National Assembly to implement the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund will be a great breakthrough for improving primary healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
Sen. Olanrewaju Tejuoso, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, said the fund provided in the act would generate more than N54 billion for health intervention programmes.
“The act provides that one per cent of the consolidated revenue should be a statutory transfer to the appropriate agencies.
“It means the fund will go to particular pockets as grant to provide basic healthcare to Nigerians.
“It is supposed to be a minimum of one per cent of consolidated revenue to support the funding coming from other partners,’’ he said.
He said the fund would be domiciled with the agencies and if it was not spent, it would be used the following year.
Further to this development, for more efficient primary healthcare delivery, Dr Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said the agency would address the challenges of primary healthcare system.
He said the agency would ensure effective human resources, good equipment, availability of drugs, better power supply, regular water and the general management of Primary Health Care (PHC) system.
He said the agency had designed programmes and interventions to improve the efficiency and quality of PHC services.
Shuaib said the agency had concluded plans to roll out Community Health Influencers and Promoters of Health Services Programme to scale up demand for primary health care services in rural communities.
He added that the programme would change the landscape of primary healthcare system in the country, promising that the agency would reach out to remote areas where people lacked access to healthcare.
“During the programme, an average of 10 women per ward who have minimum of elementary or secondary school education will be identified to participate in the programme.
“Such women will be trained on basic health services such as provision of first aid, motivational talks, promotion of good hygiene and environmental sanitation in the community.
“They will also conduct a house-to-house visit with the aim of creating demand for ante-natal and other health services and make referrals to the nearest health facilities.
“However, the trained women are not going to replace Community Health Extension Workers and Juniors Community Health Extension Workers but they are going to assist in the communities,’’ he said.
Similarly, Prof. Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, said government would utilise health segment of N-Power programme to tackle the need for human resources.
“We are tapping to the 1,500 midwives that are available for deployment across the country; we have more than 20,000 young people within the N-Power Health Programme.
“The National Primary Health Care Development Agency will inaugurate Community Health Influencers and Promoters of Health Services Programme that will function like the old village health care workers and health inspectors, and its personnel will go from house-to-house in villages and encourage people to come to access facilities.
“Part of the challenges we have is that we have the facilities and the facilities are not patronised by the people.
“Either because the people had lost interest in the past or they go there and there were no personnel to attend to them or there were no drugs but we are changing that narrative,’’ Adewole said.
He also said the government had been revitalising Primary Health Care centres, beginning with 110 Primary Health Care centres across the country, while the Federal Government had been partnering the state governments in that regard.
“Part of what the Basic Health Care Provision Fund will do is to pay for human resources for health and also pay for maintenance so that you will not revitalise today and in the next few years, the system will fall apart,’’ Adewole explained.
For sustainability, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency insists that the Federal Government has made it very clear that health is a priority sector.
To boost rural healthcare services, the agency announces that it has set up national routine immunisation coordination centre as an engine room to ensure better coordination of routine immunisation activities nationwide.
By Mustapha Yauri, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)