New Telegraph

50m Nigerians On Health Insurance Will Change Sector Dynamics – Pate

…as FG earmarks N260bn for PHC revitalisation

…increases enrollment into medical, nursing schools to 64,000

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, has hinted at plans by the current administration to increase the number of Nigerians on health insurance from 17 million to 50 million, in order to ensure more Nigerians have access to affordable healthcare services.

Pate who gave the hint on Friday in Abuja at the sectoral ministerial press briefing to mark the first anniversary of President Bola Tinubu in office, noted that the current administration was trying to ramp up the work not done in the last 25 years, by providing insurance cover for more Nigerians including retirees.

He said:” We need to make healthcare affordable to Nigerians so expanding health insurance, repositioning health insurance is part of that agenda that Mr. President has directed for everyone.

“The reforms that are underway are about to be finalised including for retirees, civil servants and others so that Nigerians can begin to afford health care services.

“Imagine if we get 50 million Nigerians having insurance, it will really change the dynamics in the sector. For 25 years we only had 17 million Nigerians covered. We are trying to ramp up on that.”

Pate who disclosed that N260bn has been earmarked for the revitalisation of the Primary health centres across the country, added that plans were underway to expand the PHCs from 8,300 to 17,000 through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and make them functional to deliver essential services.

“I’m very pleased to say that there is N260 billion sitting right now at the states’ level. All the states of the federation have been mobilised for the revitalisation of the PHCs. This is a resource that is from the International Development Association, either, and from the Basic HealthCare Provision Fund because when we said we’re going to revitalize our PHCs, the key to doing that is the resources to be available.

“So a lot of the effort that has been going on over the last several months is to mobilise the resources to be able to deploy and the states have this N260bn in their pockets available.”

While noting that states would be provided with guidelines for the implementation of the revitalisation and equipment of medical facilities, the minister said a large part of the funds mobilised would be channelled towards addressing the unmet need for contraceptives, as well as to provide quality reproductive health services.

In addition, the minister disclosed ongoing plans to train 120,000 frontline health workers for three years, and domesticate production capabilities to produce what Nigerians need.

“The trainers have been trained in all the states of the federation, and I believe in the next one or two weeks, the training will commence. The guidelines have been revised, and printed and we raise the resources to be able to do that so that over the next three years, at least 120,000 frontline health workers, those who are serving our population in rural areas will have the capability, the skills, in addition to the infrastructure and the equipment that we have provided.

“He (Tinubu) approved the presidential initiative to unlock the healthcare value chain in October. Since then, we have made steady progress in terms of unlocking Nigeria’s healthcare value chain.

“The first policy measure is a draft executive order which we have now produced, and finalised, and if the President assents, it would reduce the barriers in terms of import of raw materials, import of equipment for pharmaceuticals and devices so that Nigerians will be able to produce what we need, whether it’s syringes or needles, whether it’s generic pharmaceuticals and also test kits, and long-lasting insecticide-treated nets for malaria.

“We had mentioned that bed nets that we use for malaria are produced outside that, why can’t we produce them here?”

The minister further disclosed that the enrollment quota in medical, nursing and other professional schools had been increased from 28,000 to 64,000 annually, in order to address the shortage of healthcare workers in the country occasioned by drain and other factors.

On the incidence of fake drugs in the open market, the minister urged Nigerians and the private sector to desist from colluding with merchants of fake drugs, to help safeguard the lives of unsuspecting Nigerians.

“We are working with the private sector to streamline the supply chain for fake drugs. There are other open drug markets that we are planning to address in terms of closing them so they will use a coordinated warehouse.

“We are working hard to reduce fake drugs but the private sector and Nigerians themselves have a responsibility not to collide with those who are killing our people by bringing them.”

Pate further revealed that “In the area of vaccination, over 5 million Nigerian children have been vaccinated against diphtheria using pentavalent vaccine.

“More than 10 million Nigerian children received the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines. We are working hard to stop the circulating variant polioviruses showing up in Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kebbi States.

“We have delivered measles vaccines to more than 5 million children to protect them against measles, and 4.95 million girls 9-14 years in 15 States have received HPV vaccines to protect them against cervical cancer, representing 80% target, among the highest in the world. 6 million more are planned to receive the vaccines in the next phase for 21 states starting from May 27, 2024.”

Also, “In terms of hospital equipment and infrastructure, the federal hospitals have successfully executed 201 specific infrastructure projects in the last 1 year. Additionally, 179 specific pieces of important medical equipment were procured by the federal government and distributed across the six geopolitical zones.

In 33 of our federal tertiary hospitals, approximately 4.5 million Nigerians accessed outpatient health services, and 1.6 million had inpatient admissions. Showing that Nigerians are using the services provided by the Federal Government in those facilities, supported by an amazing army of health professionals.”

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