Paul Obi in Abuja
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) yesterday said it would stage a protest march today to raise awareness on the fact that the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari might not implement the National Health Act in 2017.
To that effect, the NMA said it would use today to stage a protest march in Abuja that will terminate in the Aso Rock, where its leaders would submit a letter with President Buhari.
The body maintained that non-implementation of the act for two years running has worsened the health situation in the country.
The National Health Act which was signed into law in 2014, has not been implemented since the inception of President Buhari’s administration.
The law provides that not less than one per cent from the consolidated revenue fund be set aside for basic health care service delivery and provision funds.
NMA President, Prof. Mike Ogirima, told journalists yesterday in Abuja during the 2016 physicians week with the theme: “Healthcare delivery in a frail economy: Challenges and way forward” that there are growing fears that government may jettison the implementation of the act.
Ogirima stressed: “The NMA has decided to speak out because of the fear that the government may not implement the Act in the coming year.”
He said: “It is worrisome; the consequence are numerous. The implementation of the National Health Act is key to achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria. We are going to stage a walk in Abuja tomorrow (today, Wednesday) and march to Aso Rock and drop a letter with the president.
“You will agree with me that at a time like this when money is difficult to come by, out of pocket expenditure for health services by individuals at the point of service becomes a great challenge. Unfortunately, over 70 per cent of healthcare expenditure in this country is borne out of pocket.
“The non-implementation of the National Health Act, 2014, which provides for not less than one per cent consolidated revenue fund as basic health care provision fund has further worsened the travails of the health sector particularly at the grassroots, where the greater burden of the health disease reside. It has also added to the financial burden of the citizens in their quest to seek quality health care which in most cases is non-existent.
“The federal government has still failed to do that in 2015 and 2016 budget and the feelers we are getting on the drafting of the 2017 budget has shown that they have also not put the 1 per cent,” Ogirima added.
He said: “The consequence of not implementing an Act that has been passed for two years are numerous. One of those things is that Nigerians have been shortchanged…So these funds have not been there. 2015 is gone, 2016 is going and we are into looking at 2017 and that is why we have come out to say those provisions must be implemented particularly that of the minimum one per cent from the consolidated revenue.
“The Act when implemented, will ensure that there is universal health coverage, that means that Nigerians will have access to adequate and efficient healthcare. These are the things we have been loosing without the implementation of the health care among other things.
Speaking against the backdrop of government’s budgeting for health in the country, Legal Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, explained that the emphases is dedicating available maximum resources for the protection and promotion of right to health of every Nigerian.
The implication of not implementing the Act, according to him, is that “there will be reduced funding for healthcare.”
Onyekpere said: “You have heard about the number of women and children who are dying. Even the immunisation, it is the donors who are immunising our children, we don’t want that to continue, we want to be able to take care of ourselves. We don’t have to get foreigners to pay for the immunisation of our children, it a big shame.
“We are talking on the basis of dedication, to dedicate available maximum resources for the protection and the promotion of the right to health of every Nigerian. We examined what the federal government have done over the years in terms of the resources they have put down.
“I am saying that there is an obligation to dedicate 15 per cent, but what they dedicate so far is not more than five per cent. And that five per cent they are doing is not always fully released to attend to the health care of Nigerians. Over the years, we see that we have not been dedicating more than five per cent for health care despite the Abuja Declaration.
“And even the money we dedicate, we merely pay salaries and over heads. The one for capital expenditure, the 15 per cent out of the overall money, we don’t even spend more than 50 per cent of it at the end of the day.
“So in essence, we are trying to point out that the government has not being doing enough to protect healthcare, particularly from the point of view that we have constitutional right to live, which is entrenched in the constitution and that constitutional right to live can not be separated from right to health because the easiest way to deny a man or a woman of his right live is to deny him health supported conditions,” he stated