Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Pate
By Paul Obi
Minister of State for Health, Dr Muhammad Pate, Tuesday inaugurated the Joint Steering Team on unlocking the market potential of the private health sector to harness and build on recommendations made during the recent Inaugural Private Health Sector summit in Lagos.
The Joint Steering Team consists of key public and private health sector stakeholders and is aimed at building the analytical basis and delivery mechanisms for taking the recommendations from the summit to their logical conclusions and creating a more enabling environment for the private health system to develop.
While inaugurating the committee in Abuja, the minister stated that the private health sector had the potential to expand access to health services in the country and accelerate progress to health related MDGs, improve the quality of care in health facilities at all levels and reduce the rate of medical tourism out of the country.
He added that if properly harnessed, it will contribute to the country’s Gross Domestic Product and job creation drive and finance additional private sector investment in the health sector.
Pate also articulated a road map towards unlocking the private health market potential in three horizons, with two phases completed (rapid diagnostic of the private health sector and consultation and advocacy) and significant progress along the way.
But speaking to THISDAY, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele urged government to go beyond setting up a committee to ensuring what he called “a practical realisation of the project.”
According to Enabulele, “government intention to unlock the potentials of the private health system is a good step, despite discrepancies in the nation’s public health system.”
The NMA president told THISDAY that given that about 60 per cent of Nigerians patronise private health facilities, the critical areas government should look into in assisting the private health sector should include infrastructure, proper regulation of the practice environment and a workable Public Private Partnership (PPP).
He, however, called on the Federal Government to establish the Private Health Development Fund (PHDF) which will provide the platform to enable private health system flourish, including bridging the existing gaps in the nation’s public healthcare system.
The members of the Joint Steering Team includes FMOH, NHIS, NAFDAC, Hygeia group, Abuja Clinics, Vesta, Anadach, FCMB, NPHCDA, Customs, amongst others.
The Hon. Minister of State for Health will act as chairman while Dr. Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq (Technical Adviser to the Honourable Minister of State for Health) will be the secretary of the Joint Steering team.
According to officials, the Joint Steering Team will be the first forum to foster coordinated, structured and continuous dialogue between the public and private health sector so that information exchange, representation, strategic advice and advocacy for the sector can take place.
With the inauguration of the committee, it is expected oversee the development of position papers for each work program developed from the Summit and will inform engagement with the Economic Management Team and other stakeholders to form the basis of initiating specific policy and regulatory interventions as well as other Public Private Partnership (PPP) model projects and quick-wins to stimulate and unlock the private health sector.