Posted on: Tue 02-04-2024

Industry experts in the health sector have called on the federal government, FG, to invest more funds in the sector to address recurring issues such as mass movement of workers to overseas over greener pastures among others.

The call came when the Federal Medical Center, FMC Ebute-Metta, commissioned the oxygen piping of the hospital’s paediatrics centre, trauma wards, specialist consulting rooms among others.

The oxygen piping centre was donated by the Clinton Health Initiatives.

In an interview with the press on his expectations from the government to help boost the healthcare, Head of Clinical Service, Mr. Saheed Ogunme, said: “One of the challenges in the healthcare space is actually healthcare financing and funding. Our hospital is a government hospital, so our funding generally comes from the budget of the federation. And we all know that the amount of resources allocated to the health sector can be better.

“In our country today, we are challenged by the Japa syndrome. Healthcare workers, ranging from doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, are all moving out of the country and one of the greatest push factors is the remuneration.

“So, we think that if the remuneration of healthcare workers is looked into, that will help stem the tide.

“Also, the environment in which healthcare workers work. So, if we can improve on that, provide the enabling environment, the tools and resources that are needed, this will help too.

“On the side of the patients, in our country today, healthcare financing is majorly through out-of-pocket, and that is not sustainable. And that is the reason why the federal government, about a year or two ago, re-enacted the National Health Insurance Law to make health insurance compulsory for all Nigerians.

“Also, in the National Health Act, there is a provision for the basic healthcare fund, in which I think about 1 or 4 percent of the consolidated fund of the federation is reserved for that so that Nigerians can have access to healthcare when they need it such that it does not cause them financial catastrophe,” he said.

Commenting on the oxygen piping,  he was optimistic that it will deliver life-saving interventions to people and children who need it.

Ogunme posited: “You know, oxygen is life. Without oxygen, you probably have just five minutes to live when there is no oxygen. So, the impact of this project is going to be tremendous.

“One of the things that came up during the COVID pandemic was the gaps noticed in our healthcare system. That is one of those gaps that this project is going to cover. So, we are indeed very grateful to the Global Fund.”

Also, speaking Head, Grant Management Division at the Global Fund, Mr. Mark Eddington, said the initiative of the oxygen cylinders came out of the learnings from the COVID crisis when they realized that there were just too many facilities around the world that had no access or not enough access to oxygen.

Eddington said: “As part of our COVID-19 response funding, we then invested quite heavily in oxygen around the world. So, what I have seen here today in Nigeria, in Ebute-Metta  medical center, has really been impressive.”

“The oxygen cylinders, the oxygen plant, the piping, all of that will deliver life-saving interventions to people and children who need it.”

Speaking on his expectations from the government on the health sector, he said: “We would like to see more money being invested in health. At this point in time, Nigeria invests about 6 percent of its budget in health. We would like it to move towards what’s called the Abuja Declaration of 15 percent.

“We are particularly keen to see money invested, both by the federal government and the state governments in health, particularly in commodities. There are a number of life-saving commodities.

“In The Global Fund, we focus on HIV, TB, and malaria, as well as health systems. We would like the government to maintain and increase its investment in ART antiretroviral therapy for HIV. We would like to see the government fully cover the needs for malaria, bed nets, tests, treatment in the 13 states that the government covers malaria for. Above all, we would like to see significantly more investment in TB, tuberculosis. “Tuberculosis is dramatically underfunded in Nigeria, partly due to the success of TB. Nigeria used to find about 100,000 cases of TB a year. That has increased three times, and so Nigeria is now finding about 90 percent of TB cases, we estimate.

“The trouble is, in order to treat those cases, we need significantly more investment than is currently in the system. So that’s what we’d like to see from the federal government, essentially step up the investments in health, maintain the gains, and continue to make real progress,” Eddington added.