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Health writers urge new Health Ministers to bring expected change

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ELATED with the appointment of two health professionals as Ministers of Health by President Buhari, the Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN), has called on them to bring the needed expected change in the nation’s health sector.

Describing the ministers appointment as putting the right peg in the right hole, HEWAN in a press statement signed by HEWAN President,  Chioma Obinna and its Secretary, Lucy Osuizigbo, the association believes that the newly appointed ministers understand the system, the challenges and bottlenecks.

HEWAN applauded President Buhari for appointing Dr Osagie Ehanire as Minister of Health and Sen. Adeleke Manorama as Minister of State For Health, adding that he has kept  faith with his promise to ensure that the right people are appointed for a better Nigeria.

However, having examined the sector and observed myriads of challenges bedeviling the sector, ranging from poor funding, huge disease burden, population explosion, poverty and high maternal mortality, among others, HEWAN recommend that the minister’s  pay  attention to the following areas:

Implementation of primary health care policies/adequate funding of PHCs:

The disease burden will drop drastically if the challenges affecting primary healthcare are addressed properly. It is in the interest of the nation for the ministers to rejig our PHCs to make them viable.  It is also pertinent for the ministers to continue with the 10,000 primary health centers project across the country.

Subsidized healthcare services for the elderly:

There is an urgent need to put in place measures to address the healthcare needs of the elderly and retirees in the country, because old age comes with some unavoidable associated ailments of which they cannot afford to manage on their own.

Medical negligence and mis diagnosis:

The country is in dire need of effective medical laboratory services. Many of the national laboratory facilities have gone moribund. For instance the Vaccine Laboratory in Lagos.

There is a need to revitalized these facilities for better treatment outcomes as medical laboratory remains the bedrock of medical treatment.

Maternal and child mortality and morbidity:.

There is the need for improved efforts to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity, which has continued to be on the increase. Also, there is the need to investigate and prosecute cases of negligence in the hospitals to serve as deterrent and build confidence in the health system.

End rivalry among health workers:

The association believes that paying attention to the inter-professional rivalry in the public health sector should be among the first steps by the new health minister.

There should be zero tolerance for discord in the sector.

JOHESU, a body of health workers apart from doctors, has been on a warpath with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) over the years especially because doctors opposed most of their welfare demands.

As a matter of necessity without prejudice, the age-long inter- and intra-professional rivalries, discord, acrimony, and crisis that have always thrown the Nigerian Health Sector into unending and perennial discord should be tackled.

This has always been described in some quarters as “irreconcilable differences” and “cold war.” What this has brought to the Health Sector is retrogression, stagnation, motion without movement, etc.

It has eroded patient-centred practices, especially openly demonstrated in Public Health Institutions.

This has gone unabated for years. Patients have suffered the consequences in no small way. This has greatly led to the loss of confidence in our Health Sector too.

Increase budgetary allocation to health sector to end brain drain:

A 2017 poll by the Nigerian Polling Organisation (NOI) found that over 90 per cent of medical doctors in the country intends to seek employment opportunities abroad because of low job satisfaction, poor remuneration and high deductibles from their salaries.

  1. Make NHIS functional and health insurance mandatory:

Based on available evidence, HEWAN believes that Nigeria cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage if health insurance remains optional.

Millions of Nigerians continue to face health challenges because they cannot afford quality care. Health insurance has largely been ineffective in the country.

HEWAN states that despite billions spent on the NHIS since 2005 when it took off, millions of Nigerians still lack access to quality healthcare.

So we ask for a functional scheme that brings about Universal Health Coverage.

The Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) is an umbrella body of all health/science reporters and editors (TV, radio, print and Online), in Nigeria, registered first as members of The Nigeria Union of Journalists( NUJ).

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