Private Sector Can Contribute More to Healthcare with Right Regulation, Says Avon CEO

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Martins Ifijeh

Private sector participation as well strong regulatory framework have been described as two factors that can help drive Universal Health Coverage in Africa.

Making this assertion was the MD/CEO, Avon HMO, Adesimbo Ukiri, during the inaugural edition of the Africa Health Forum organised by the World Health Organisation, WHO, African Region in Rwanda from 27-28 June, 2017.

The event, themed ‘Putting People First: The Road to Universal Health Coverage in Africa’, was a platform for key players in Africa’s health ecosystem to discuss persistent challenges in public health as well as innovative strategies, partnerships and opportunities that can be leveraged in order to deliver Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Ukiri, who was a prominent Nigerian voice as one of the speakers during the panel discussion on the topic: ‘Making Universal Healthcare Work in Africa – How Can the Private Sector Contribute’ said: “The most significant contribution the private companies like HMOs make to the achievement of UHC is the ability to pool resources together from all segments of the population and widen coverage to ensure that when the time comes for people to access healthcare services, they aren’t hindered by financial constraints that may lead to the needless loss of lives or catastrophic financial ruin.”

Speaking on the Nigerian experience, she stated that while health insurance was not yet mandatory in the country, stakeholders were advocating for a change in legislation to ensure that companies with up to five employees subscribe to a health insurance scheme for staff and their families.

She said: “The number of people contributing towards health insurance is still inadequate and almost insignificant – between 3 to 5 per cent according to the National Health Insurance Scheme. This is disappointing, in spite of our country’s burgeoning middle income population. Putting legislation in place that makes health insurance compulsory will do a great deal to unlock all the potentials and the opportunities that exist, to widen and deepen coverage. It would also ensure that there is consistent, regular and adequate healthcare financing available for the delivery side of the healthcare value chain,” she said.

HMOs are on a mission to ensure that people are sufficiently sensitised to realise that their healthcare needs are important enough to set money aside for. Subscribing to a good health coverage plan enhances their overall lifestyle and improves quality of life.

Adesimbo added that beyond the enforceability of legal and regulatory frameworks, both the government and private sector organisations within the healthcare space must trust each other and work hand in hand in order to achieve significant success in the journey towards making Universal Health Coverage attainable.

To buttress her point on the viability and sustainability of such collaborations, Adesimbo shared an experience of how Avon HMO partnered with a major international oil company, community leaders and the local government to implement a community health scheme in Idemili, Eastern Nigeria. The scheme has alleviated the healthcare challenges in and is a source of succour to the community till date.