The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) has said the focus on primary healthcare (PHC) in the country is timely and well-placed, considering that PHC has been identified as the path to universal health coverage (UHC), a goal the country continues to pursue.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said this today (November 22, 2022) during the 2022 edition of the annual National Health Dialogue in Abuja.
Science Nigeria reports that the high-level platform was organised by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID), in collaboration with Premium Times to advance conversations around key health issues in Nigeria and Africa by extension.
The 2022 edition is themed “Primary Health Care Financing; Role of State and Non-state Actors”.
Ehanire, who was represented by the director, health planning research and statistics, FMOH, Dr. Ngozi Azodoh said UHC is key to the health and well-being of all Nigerians and guarantees needed quality healthcare services for all persons without financial hardship.
He said that the country’s journey to UHC has been slow, but remarkable milestones have been achieved, as efforts to revitalise and strengthen the PHC system have heightened, instilling confidence that the country would inch closer to attaining UHC.
Ehanire listed shortage and maldistribution of healthcare workers, dilapidated infrastructure, weak referral systems and limited financing for the PHC system as some of the challenges that have bedevilled the country’s healthcare system.
“The National Health Account reports published over the past decade indicate that expenditure on PHC has been sub-optimal, with significant spending on curative healthcare.
“The inadequacy in funding the PHC system has negatively impacted the delivery of services such as immunisation and maternal and child health services.
“Robust financing would require collaborative efforts from both state and non-state actors. While state actors in government continue to play their roles to ensure that more public resources are available for the PHC systems, a significant proportion of the progress with financing for PHC is dependent on the role of non-state actors,” he said.
The minister said that the private sector, civil society organisations, the media, faith-based organisations, trade unions, professional organisations, academia, community groups and private citizens alike can all contribute to financing PHC in Nigeria.
He said the country has continued to make efforts to improve the proportion of resources allocated to the PHC system. Also, he noted that the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) has been a game changer and resulted in increased financing for the PHC system through the different gateways.
Speaking on “PHC financing: The role of government in achieving optimum PHC performance” the executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Faisal Shuaib said it has been recognised that health is a fundamental universal right for all.
Shuaib, who was represented by the director, PHC, NPHCDA, Dr. Ngozi Nwosu said that health is an essential condition for the integral and sustainable development of the people and a necessity for economic growth with equity.
He said the failure of many countries to achieve health for all led to a global commitment that aims to strengthen PHC systems as an essential step towards achieving UHC.
The NPHCDA boss said that the PHC approach is the most effective way to sustainably solve health system challenges.
“The government’s role in PHC is well-documented in-country and is supported through partnerships with the private sector, NGOs and charity institutions.
“The signing of the National Health Act into law proves the Nigerian government’s commitment to achieving UHC by 2030.
“Beyond policy declarations, the health sector significantly underperforms on key health outcomes such as life expectancy, maternal mortality and child health indices,” he said.
Shuaib said that the increased challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic constraints have sprung new challenges for accessible health care for all Nigerians.
“The system has remained weak and health outcomes suboptimal due to fragmentation of services and other multiple challenges in various aspects of the health system framework.
“At this point, the importance of adequate financing for PHC cannot be overemphasised. This is important to build resilient health systems. This is very important because health financing is the enabler to major parts of the health system operation,” he explained.
The NPHCDA boss said that there were so many challenges facing Africa’s largest economy and preventing it from deploying its increasing wealth to better health outcomes, due to large inequities.
“This means Nigeria has fallen behind most other African countries and much below international standards in terms of health financing and health outcomes.
“Some PHCs facilities across the country are poorly equipped, with only a quarter of facilities having more than 25 per cent of the minimum equipment package.”
Shuaib said that the limited coverage of important PHC interventions is further aggravated by poor quality care, with the poor performance of health workers also contributing.
He, however, acknowledged the urgent need to improve data quality and information platforms which would further ensure evidence-based decision-making and policies.
Earlier in his welcome address, the executive director, CJID, Mr. Tobi Oluwatola said that the event was coming at a time the country’s health system is facing a myriad of challenges – high maternal mortality rates, a high number of deaths from malaria, cholera and another disease that can be easily prevented – which have not been helped by government’s continued insufficient attention to the health sector and the extremely poor budget allocated to the sector which is unable to address the health concerns of citizens.