Bassey Inyang in Calabar
The Committee of Chief Executives of Tertiary Health Institutions has called on the federal government to incorporate tertiary health institutions in Nigeria into the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund).
To buttress the demand, the association disclosed that it had forwarded a letter to the National Assembly, urging the lawmakers to amend the TETFund Act of 2011.
Addressing journalists in Calabar recently, the Chairman of the Tertiary Health Institutions in the country, Dr. Thomas Agan, who is the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH), said the demand has already been forwarded to the House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions, through the Federal Ministry of Health.
Agan stressed the urgent need to amend the TETFund Act of 2011 to include the funding of tertiary/teaching hospitals in the law.
“It is possible that formulators of the act were not sufficiently informed at the time. It is however not late to address this pathetic situation. The act should be amended to incorporate tertiary/teaching Hospitals. Thus Section 7(1) Sub-section 3 of the act should read thus: ‘the distribution of the fund shall be in the ratio of 2:1:5:1: between universities, tertiary hospitals, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“The teaching/tertiary hospitals can be called the ‘workshop’ of the universities. This is so because over 80 per cent of all students graduating through any medical school of a university must have their training through the teaching or tertiary hospital.”
He added: “I have always wondered why the proponent of TETFund did not consider it necessary to recognise teaching/tertiary hospitals in Nigeria as tertiary institutions. A teaching hospital all over the world is considered both as a tertiary health institution as well as a tertiary training institution. The activities intrinsic in a teaching hospital are obvious and can therefore be ascertained.
I therefore with due respect believe that either the original advocates of this noble idea of TETFund did not consult widely or must have been engulfed in ignorance of the mandates of a teaching/tertiary hospital.”
Explaining their functions, Agan said: “Tertiary health institutions have three core mandates which are health service delivery, training and research. Funding of tertiary institutions has always come from yearly appropriation given to the institutions as predetermined ‘envelopes’ by the federal government through the supervisory Federal Ministry of Health. Institutions are required to share the contents of the envelopes to accommodate all their needs.
“It is known that no budgetary appropriation has even been made for training and research needs of the tertiary hospitals. Institutions are expected to rely on their epileptic overhead allocations and their internally generated funds. Overhead allocation is part of the envelope that ranges between N2 to N11 million monthly, if it comes at all.
“What constitutes internally generated funds in tertiary hospitals include bed fee, consultation fee, some aspects of card free, operation fee, rent and fee from boarded items. Others are principally revolving funds (drugs, theatre and ward consumables, laboratory consumables, among others).
“Most tertiary health institutions’ overhead is unable to pay for monthly consumed public power supply to the institutions, talk less of paying for a truck load of diesel, servicing backup generator sets as well as taking care of other subheads meant for the allocated overhead funds. Thus, funding research and training in these tertiary institutions have always been a major challenge (one of the major causes of regular unrest in tertiary health institutions in Nigeria.)”
He disclosed that since 2011 to date, capital releases to all the tertiary health institutions have been between 38 per cent and 52 per cent, adding that most capital projects in these tertiary institutions have remained either uncompleted or abandoned.
“The above analysis is comprehensive in justifying the tertiary status and need to incorporate teaching hospitals as one of the beneficiaries of TETFund. The Nigerian universities, polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education have improved their infrastructure, training needs and research through TETFund. Tertiary health institutions are also educational institutions and also require upliftment to better the health of the Nigerian people.”