The Primary Healthcare System in Nigeria is inadequate, inaccessible and unaffordable to many residents, experts highlighted at the Primary Health Care Policy Dialogue, recently.
Themed ‘PHC in Nigeria: Progress, Challenges and Collaborating for Transformation’, the experts used the occasion to dissect issues on PHC.
They said most of the challenges faced in the PHC system centre around poor infrastructure, unreliable data, inadequate funding, fragmentation of governance, poor demand for PHC services largely driven by a loss of confidence in the system, among others.
In a keynote address, former National Chairman of the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria and Professor Tanimola Akande, emphasised the need for proper access to PHC, while making healthcare available for all.
“PHC is a major backbone to achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria,” Akande said.
He argued that a lot is still required to strengthen PHC to achieve UHC in Nigeria, as poor performance of PHC remains a major contributor to the weak health system.
He noted that data showed maternal mortality rate at 576/100,000 live births (one in nine maternal deaths worldwide), infant mortality rate at 75/1,000 and child mortality rate at 132/1,000.
According to him, if the new Health Sector Reform is implemented, about 70 per cent of the deaths will be prevented.
In positioning PHC through the new HSR, he called for consideration of the Health Tax Fund, reliance on out-of-pocket expenditure, insurance coverage towards UHC target of 90 per cent and improvement on them.
The PHC, designed to cater for at least 70 per cent, only caters for about 20 per cent, he stressed, noting that about 30,000 health facilities at different levels of functionality were dilapidated.
Stating that the National Health Policy identifies PHC as the cornerstone of the National Health System, he added, “The existence of a well-functioning health system and a timely access to services is critical to attaining UHC.”
The Chief Executive Officer of ACIOE Associates, Dr Ekenem Isichei, said the PHC system had further been impacted by the Coronavirus Disease.
His added, “Key here is a clear framework to get the government to work with the private sector. When you look at Lagos, Kano, Nasarawa and Kaduna states, the healthcare system there are a bit more dependent. If we have a stronger health system, we save lives and we save money.
“Even if we have another pandemic or outbreak, we already have a stronger system that creates access to health for all people in the society and they can afford it.”
Ekiti State Commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Oyebanji Filani, underscoring the state’s priority on securing public health amid the pandemic, said the Ekiti deployed a lot of interventions.
While fielding questions on the impact of COVID-19, Filani said the pandemic was a curse as well as a blessing. “It has helped us to appraise our public health system’s readiness and health security. Yes, we have significant challenges with the pandemic, we also recognise that it is an opportunity to better strengthen the healthcare system.”
On her part, the Chief Medical Officer at EHA Clinics, Dr Anthonia Hananiya, who also stressed on the quality of healthcare while leveraging technology, said there was need to change the mindset of the nation from being reactionary.
“There is a need to make our healthcare affordable,” she added.
According to the President, Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, Dr Rahila Mukhtar, the association has made some inroads in PHC advocacy.
For the President/Financial Director, Healthcare Innovation in Delivering Financial Analysis and Actionable Business Insight, Dr Charles Ezuma-Ngwu, access and healthcare delivery to Nigerians in terms of payment system needed to leverage many payment solutions that work.
He said, “We will all start from political will to allocate resources for PHC, that is what I believe in effecting payment on the PHC.”
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