Doctors alert to looming disaster in health sector

Dr. Kayode Obembe
Dr. Kayode Obembe
• Want urgent review of ‘paltry allocation of N2221.7bn for sector’ in 2016 budget
• NMA faults reduction to 3.65%, seeks increased budgetary provision to 15%
At last, doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) raised alarm over looming disaster in the healthcare delivery sector in 2016 even as it urged the federal government and more appropriately the National Assembly to urgently review and revise the “paltry allocation of ₦221.7 billion to health ministry in the 2016 Appropriation Bill.”
NMA in a statement, yesterday, jointly signed by the President, Dr. Kayode Obembe, and Secretary General, Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki, said: “…we call on the National Assembly as the only organ that could mitigate this looming disaster in the healthcare delivery sector in 2016 at this juncture, to look dispassionately without any partisan sentiments at what should be done to substantially increase the allocation to the health ministry in order to deliver better healthcare to the Nigerian people.”
Association views with great dismay the sharp departure from the prescribed 15 per cent of the national budget for health made in 2001 in a meeting of African Heads of States and Government which Nigeria hosted in Abuja, observing that this deviation has posed a huge moral burden for the country in going against her own avowed commitment despite the emerging challenges and resultant burgeoning demands from the sector.
The NMA, however, said the only road to economic recovery is for the government to guarantee basic minimum package of healthcare to every citizen through Universal Health Coverage (UHC). It said the panacea for the UHC is Community Based Health Insurance and this is achievable by increased budgetary allocation to healthcare of 15 per cent of national budget and operationalization of National Health Act.
Obembe said though not ignorant of the current realities of dwindling oil revenue and contracting fiscal space – a situation which the country has most unfortunately found herself, the NMA is of the view that the markedly diminished allocation of 3.65 per cent in the 2016 budget would never encourage the advancement of universal health coverage which is the only panacea towards improving availability, access, quality and efficiency of the health services to reduce the disparaging health indices which continue to malign the image of our country in the comity of nations.
He said that the NMA is also in shock as the ₦60 billion- equivalent of at least one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund- envisaged to accrue as the Basic Health Provision fund as enshrined in the National Health Act 2014 was conspicuously absent from the budget proposal as presented.
The NMA President further explained: “Coming at this auspicious occasion of budgeting under the reassuring change mantra, it is our considered opinion that Nigeria should show the way and provide leadership in Africa after having failed in this regard since 2001. Facts from available evidence show that whereas 33 per cent of countries have allocated at least 10 per cent of their national budget to health with only Tanzania, Rwanda, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Malawi and Central African Republic attaining 15 per cent, Nigeria has been revolving between three per cent and six per cent.”
The Association is also dismayed that contrary to the recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) that national budgets should allocate the equivalent of ₦6,908.00 per head (General Government Health Expenditure (GGHE) per Capita), reports from the World Bank reveal that the 2016 federal budget only provided for ₦1448.00 ($7.55 at $1=₦197) representing a retrogression from ₦1,546.00 in 2015 and ₦1,653.00 in 2014. This, Obembe said presents a precarious situation as all other contributions from state and local governments; donor agencies and other sources cannot bridge the deficit of ₦5,460.00 in this regard.
The NMA President said the association appreciates with great expectations the lofty ambition of the federal government through the federal ministry of health to revitalise 1000 primary health centres in Nigeria by 2017 beginning with one per senatorial zone in the first instance; modernising some tertiary hospitals to centres of excellence status in order to mitigate medical tourism; the renewed vigor or responsiveness to emerging health challenges, increasing transparency and widening doors of consultations and cooperation.
Obembe said the NMA strongly believes that it is only commensurate funding that could drive the proposals to reasonable actualisation.
NMA promises to assist government in playing her role in budget tracking to ensure that budgeted and released funds are used for the purposes they were appropriated. While also calling on state and local governments to allocate substantial resources to the healthcare delivery sector and encourage donors and philanthropists not to be fatigued at this critical point in Nigeria’s history, the NMa therefore restates with glowing optimism her unalloyed loyalty, commitment and readiness to partner with government to deliver prompt and efficient healthcare to Nigerians.
The Association said in this era of reduction in oil revenue, the economy would rest mainly on human resource potentialities and manpower developmental output.

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