The director-general of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Prof. Mohammed Sambo has disclosed that the agency has employed no fewer than 190 health professionals to boost operations since his appointment in 2019.
Sambo, who was represented by the agency’s public affairs manager, Emmanuel Ononokpono said, in the past, NHIS offices had just one nurse – which means that anyone who has studied history or mass communication would be the one to access the hospital to tell whether this is a stethoscope or not and that worsened the situation at that time.
“The agency had to find a way to engage transparently 190 medical persons – five in each state across Nigeria – including doctors, nurses, pharmacists and (medical) laboratory scientists.
“Now, we don’t have to send people from the head office to the states to conduct quality assurance again. The state offices can handle it.”
He further narrated how politicking and wranglings almost consumed the agency under his predecessors, resulting in the public losing confidence in the organisation.
Also, Sambo pointed out that the former NHIS could not build offices in any part of the country, making it pay rent for its 38 offices nationwide.
“We were deploying ICT equipment. Whenever the house owners said we should go, we dismantled those things and moved with them. Worse, the government did not audit the NHIA account for five years before he took over in 2019 because of a crisis.”
Sambo disclosed that every chief executive of the agency tried to change the NHIS Act to make health insurance compulsory in the country, but they didn’t succeed and his efforts to change the NHIS Act succeeded after three attempts.
“You can’t have universal health coverage without making it compulsory. The Act gives hope to 83 million vulnerable Nigerians that cannot afford to pay for healthcare.”
He questioned why the government could not allocate at least an oil bloc to the 83 million vulnerable to fund health insurance in the country.
“If the government could give oil blocs to individuals, why can’t it give to 83 million vulnerable Nigerians? A retired general told us some time ago how he sold his oil bloc for $500 million.”
Earlier in his remarks, the ANHEJ president, Mallam Hassan Zaggi called on the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) to work hard and present to Nigerians different affordable models that will enable them enroll in health insurance.
Also, Zaggi announced that the Association of Nigeria of Health Journalists has concluded plans to launch health insurance for its members next month and the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) has committed to supporting the association to achieve this.
“For the first phase, we are considering enrolling up to 50 health journalists. The selection process will be very stringent with performance as one of the criteria for enrolment,” he added.