Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu
By Paul Obi
With records indicating that Nigerians spend about N180 billion annually on foreign medical trips, the Federal Government Tuesday said it would focus its 2013 health budget on improving the quality of services at the tertiary levels to curb medical tourism out of the country, including applying stringent rules that will discourage the trend.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, made this known while briefing journalists after his presentation on the key performance indicators of the health sector in 2012 and proposed budget for the next fiscal year, at the State House, Abuja.
Chukwu said to achieve the goal, the Federal Government would intensify efforts to restore public confidence in the quality of tertiary health care system, while more public private partnerships would be pursued and realised.
He said the government will complete outstanding priority projects including the National Centre for Disease Control, the National Diagnostic Centre, new trauma centres in six orthopaedic and specialist hospitals across the country and continue the rehabilitation and upgrade of teaching hospitals, while expressing the hope that these steps will foster efficiency and create more jobs in the health sector.
Chukwu listed other targets for 2013 such as the prioritisation of health in national development instruments including the Vision 20:20, the transformation agenda and the SURE-P, passage of the National Health Bill into law, mainstreaming the health sector into all areas of national development and renewed commitment towards attaining universal health coverage.
On the key performance indicators in the health sector under the 2012 budget, the minister said a number of federal tertiary healthcare facilities were upgraded, just as there were increases in numbers of resident doctors trained overseas, centres screening for cancer nationwide, use of insecticide treated nets by pregnant women and health facilities providing specialised care for multi drug resistant (MDR) tuberculosis.
He also said significant improvements were recorded in emergency preparedness and response to epidemics such as measles, yellow and lassa fevers, guinea worm, lead poisoning, HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases.
Meanwhile, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is to hand over all constructed completed primary health centres to the Kogi State government with as part of the move to extend primary healthcare in the state.
The Executive Director of the agency, Dr. Ado Muhammad, disclosed this when he visited the state to commission some projects.
Muhammad observed that apart from handing over the newly-constructed completed centres to the state, the agency is ready and capable with technical assistance for Kogi State to run the centres and called on the state government to intimate the agency with development in the provision of the state primary healthcare.
The ED also urged the state government to redouble effort on the routine immunisation and disclosed that, the state ranking is low with 46% immunisation coverage and commended the state for their support for the agency whenever the agency is implementing immunisation days programmes in the state.