Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, flanked by the Speaker, House of Assembly, Hon. Monday Igbuya (right), and Clerk of the House, Mrs. Lyna Ochulo, during the signing into law of the State’s Contributing Health Commission

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba
Five months after the signing of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission into law by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, the state contributory health insurance scheme has finally begun with commencement of the pilot registration exercise in the 25 local government areas of the state.

This followed the successful training of state officials by personnel from the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Abuja, under the supervision of the Delta State Coordinator of NHIS, Dr. Chigozie Eguonu, and NHIS Deputy General Manager (ICT), Dr. Kenneth Okoroafor.

A total of 75 trainees drawn from the state primary healthcare coordinators and medical record officers from the local government areas are attending the ICT-based training organised by the Delta State Contributory Health Commission.

The 75 state health officials for the health insurance scheme pilot registration include five persons each draw from the 25 local government areas of the state.

However, officials from the NHIS are assisting the newly trained state primary healthcare officials in the different local government areas to ensure smooth take off of the pilot registration exercise in all 25 local government areas.

It would be recalled that Okowa said during the signing of the contributory health commission bill into law on February 4, 2016 that “Globally, health insurance is certainly the way to go, because the benefits are immeasurable and inclusive, but there has been resistance from the states in Nigeria. The NHIS will not succeed until all the states really key in; but I have no doubt that signing this bill into law is the best for us going forward.”

The chairman of the Delta State Contributory Health Commission, Dr. Isaac Akpoveta, said “the scheme is a concept that protects the individual from financial disaster” as anyone could fall ill when they least expected and when they might not have the means of paying their medical bills.

He therefore appealed to the people to embrace the scheme by registering at their respective local government areas as soon as the pilot registration programme commenced.

Nevertheless, Dr. Akpoveta, who noted that “today actually begins the foundation of the scheme”, urged the trainees to “please pay serious attention to the instructors who are handling this training, because the entire process is computer based and it’s about scientific precision.”

He pointed out that the establishment of the scheme in Delta State would help reduce the burden faced by the national agency, the NHIS, in coordinating the activities of its different health insurance units in each state of the federation.

Explaining the process of the commencement of the pilot registration exercise across the 25 local government areas, the Delta State NHIS Coordinator, Dr. Chigozie Eguonu, said that NHIS officials would accompany the trained state primary healthcare officials to the different local government areas for the commencement of the pilot registration exercise.

Eguonu also disclosed that the pilot registration would be preceded by an enlightenment campaign to arouse the interest of the people across the state.

“The idea is to ensure that every resident will have access to quality healthcare service at affordable cost and they don’t have to travel far for that,” he said.

Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Festus Ovie Agas, declared the training session open last week in Asaba on behalf of Governor Okowa, harping numerous benefits of the state contributory health insurance scheme to the citizens.

“This administration places high premium on the contributory health scheme,” Okowa said noting that the scheme complemented the government’s “prosperity for all Deltans’ development objective.

“The scheme is designed to take care of especially the vulnerable in the society; it helps the people who register to avoid financial shocks, which could happen when people are forced, for example, to go to moneylenders when they take ill,”, Okowa added, stressing that his administration was irrevocably committed to ensuring the success of the health scheme.

He charged the trainees to give maximum concentration to the exercise, assuring that the NHIS handling the training with over 25 of its personnel, would continue to support the state health scheme.