Dame Patience Jonathan
By Paul Obi
The First lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, Thursday bemoaned lack of empathy among health workers, stating that doctors need to show empathy to patients so as to help stop the increasing number of Nigerians seeking health care abroad.
Declaring open this year’s annual general meeting of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Mrs. Jonathan told delegates at the meeting in Abuja, to make “hospitals conducive by extending empathy” and handling patients with concern.
According to her, “If we show this, patients will be satisfied with quality of care in our hospitals, thus reducing what is now called medical tourism,” she observed.
She further noted that finance for health care, which formed the crux of NMA’s meeting, was critical to health status in the country. At least 70 per cent of health care costs are paid out of pocket.
Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, who launched the country’s community health insurance scheme in Kogi state last December, said the scheme was the only way government could guarantee that professional care would be affordable for every citizen.
He suggested constitutional amendment to back possible sitting of health facilities every five kilometres around the country, ensuring that young health workers stop drifting to big cities in search of higher income earning citizens who can pay for their services to the detriment of low income Nigerians.
The minister announced plans to site seven more diagnostic centres for Lassa fever in addition to two existing ones in Lagos and Irrua, noting that diagnosis and careful prevention were key to combating the disease, whose outbreak this year surpassed cases in recent years.
Meanwhile, Chukwu warned that the use of strikes as a weapon by health workers was “being abused”, describing it as “disruptive.”
He noted that professionals needed to raise care responsibility for “patient” even when they have “grievances.”
The First Lady and the minister's comments are coming on the heels of controversy trailing the on- going strike by the Lagos State Chapter of NMA, where officials of the association downed their tools due to disagreement over welfare issues.
Also, the Executive Director, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Abdulrahman Sambo, in a lecture, said affordable health insurance was still a challenge for the informal sector, where it is difficult to gauge incomes and determine corresponding health cover.
Sambo indicated that only around 2.4 million people are enrolled in the government’s social health insurance, but effective implementation of the scheme has been beset by problems of distribution.
The distribution means nearly none of the 1,800 providers enrolled in the scheme have more than 500 clients. “The fewer the number, the lower the capitalisation pegged at N750 a head every month they receive from NHIS,” he explained.