New Telegraph

February 27, 2024

Bayelsa: When a governor treats health as wealth

Background One of the missions of the Prosperity Government under the leadership of Governor Douye Diri is to make sure that the people of the state have access to good health care delivery. According to him, health is wealth and that is the reason why his administration has invested so much in the health sector. To mark his third year anniversary, the governor through the Ministry of Health inaugurated a health insurance scheme building which was built by his administration and equipped with state of the art facilities. Also his administration flagged off a free medical outreach to commemorate his third year anniversary with free surgeries and other medical services. Although not a man of many words, Douye Diri feels that the health of his citizens are of utmost propriety the reason why he approves any project that has to do with taking care of the health needs of the citizens and with that intention a very befitting ‘Health Insurance House was commissioned on February 9, 2023 in Yenagoa, the state capital.

Health Insurance Scheme

At the commissioning ceremony of the building and at the flag off of the free medical outreach, Governor Douye Diri disclosed that the health scheme was initiated by his immediate predecessor, Seriake Dickson. “When we came on board, we looked at its immediate benefit to our people and we decided to continue with it and to expand it and today it has been expanded beyond the former sector and included the informal sector in our state. “And we also felt that as robust as the scheme has become, we needed a befitting office space and we initiated the construction of the Health Insurance House. It is completed and today, it will be inaugurated.” Also speaking on the free medical outreach, he said “The last we did it at Imiringi in Ogbia Local Government Area went very well. “And that is why we were encouraged this year to embark on another medical outreach. “There is a popular saying that health is wealth. If the people are not healthy, they cannot prosper. That is why we have chosen this time Igeibeiri community to flag off the 2023 medical outreach. “May I therefore call on all Bayelsans to avail themselves of this opportunity so that we will all be healthy? From every corner of the state, health officers will be coming your way. In the riverine areas and on land, health workers will be coming your way and all that you will do have been paid for by your government. “Nobody is coming to charge you for all the treatment and the medicines that you will receive and all the surgeries that they will conduct. “We have a very disciplined team that are very humane and they will come your way and do exactly what they have been asked to do. Avail yourselves of this opportunity and you will be healthy and Bayelsa State will be healthy. “The honourable Commissioner of Health is hereby directed to construct a new primary health centre here in Igeibeiri. As a government, all we require from you is your support and we are very prudent in our expenditure and we prioritise our expenditures,” he said.


Ifeanyi Okowa, the Governor of Delta State, in his remarks commended the Bayelsa State Government for embarking on the scheme. He said: “I’m truly excited because the health insurance is not about the house but about the people. “If this country will realise that they need to take care of education and their health, then we are touching every life particularly the lives of the very less privileged. “I’m happy at the level you have gone in health care delivery. Truly, you are taking health care delivery to the people and that is something we must truly commend. “Many states are sluggishly embracing the health insurance policy and I believe that every state should pay special attention to it because when we truly provide health and education, we have empowered the society. “Our people should know the importance of engaging themselves and making some savings through the health insurance policy of the state government. A lot more Nigerians will be able to access health care without having to pay heavily out of their pockets,” he stated.

Health Commissioner speaks

Also speaking, the Health Commissioner Bayelsa State, Pabara Newton Igwele reeling out the achievements of the health ministry so far under his leadership said: “We are around the number one health insurance scheme in this country and most states in the federation will come to under study us in what we are doing here in Bayelsa State.

“As I’m talking to you, I received a letter from the Akwa Ibom State Government that they want to come and study what Bayelsa is doing and how they are getting it right. “The Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme House here is in fact the best in the history of Nigeria. “Today, we are here to commission this facility and in the next few weeks or months, we will be adding something very different to make the Health Insurance Scheme very robust. “During the health summit, we developed a law for the health insurance here in Bayelsa State where the oil producing and oil-bearing communities and IOC’s will bring premiums to fund the health insurance scheme.

For example, if we have about 100 households in a community and in that household, we have four persons each with a mother and a father, then imagine if those 100 houses with mothers and fathers were six, multiply with 100, they would be about 600 persons now. “And then in that community, let’s say 200 in the oil producing and oil-bearing communities they will be getting like a hundred and something thousand persons. That is a premium. “So the IOC’s pay a premium for medical care in the oil bearing and oil producing communities.

You see that most of our communities will be accessing medical care free and that’s where we are getting to. And I want to thank his excellency for supporting us to ensure that this bill comes to fruition,” he explained. And at Igeibeiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state where the medical outreach health care programme was flagged off, he said the outreach was flagged off last year at Imiringi.

He continued: “Out of 16 communities that we went to last year, we recorded about 4050 medical cases. Today in the wisdom of the deputy governor, he has asked us to increase the number of communities and we have increased them to 72 and I hope that we see more than the number we saw last year. “Last year, we were able to do 61 medical operations and we distributed 877 medical glasses and we solved about 415 dental problems and we had a COVID-19 vaccination of about 770 persons last year. “We could have brought some that did medical surgery last year but we couldn’t get them handy. Today we will be carrying out health care. We have nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and laboratory stations. We have a dental station and we will be giving immunization today for COVID-19 and other vaccines and a station where they will take drugs,” he said.

Further elaboration

The Executive Secretary of the Bayelsa Health Insurance Scheme, Zuoboemi Agadah in his reaction said that the state had made several attempts to introduce different health insurance schemes at different times in the history of the state in an effort to reduce the burden of health care cost.

He continued: “At those different attempts, the structure and attempts to ensure sustainability in my opinion were not properly fashioned out. After the initial peak of success, they had dwindled and phased out not long after. “This present one was introduced in 2017 brought in place by the then government of Henry Seriake Dickson. In this case, the necessary legislative, accountability and administrative frameworks were put in place to achieve sustainability. “We thank you, your excellency Douye Diri.

The building will stand to attest to when you were a leader in this state. Most especially, thank you for ensuring the continuity of this programme. “Your determination and forthrightness in seeing to the sustenance of this scheme is second to none. “Two years later, the scheme has developed to a level where we can withstand shocks in the insurance system and in less than five years of our operation, we have moved into this iconic building. “Over the years, we have registered 121, 000 civil servants and their dependents, nearly 5, 000 private individuals and up to 15 private organisations in the state including private schools.

“As at the end of 2021, we have carried out 4, 664 major surgeries outside other medical administrations and treatments, caesarean sections 1, 095, general hospital attendants 677,132. “In 2021, we carried out 1, 253 major surgeries, 316 of them were caesarean sections. We have taken care of preterm babies especially from multiple pregnancies in the cases of IVF. “The scheme needs your full support in our drive to the private sector to achieve universal health coverage.

Communities commend govt

Diepreye Flint George, the Community Development Chairman of Igeibeiri community in Southern Ijaw Local Government thanked the governor for remembering the community in the state. He said: “The community needs a functional health centre in the Igeibeiri community. We don’t have one.

If only you can construct a functional health centre in the community, we will be so grateful to you. “We also need electricity. We are a pipeline community but we would be suffering in darkness if not for the solar power. “To mention but a few, these things are our problems. If only you would do these for us, we would be very grateful.” Also 20-year-old Preye, who had a baby strapped to her back and who spoke in pidgin English, thanked Governor Diri for promising to build a health centre in their community. “I gave birth to my baby (boy) in a massage place. If we had a health centre here, I would have gone there.”

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