Categorise Dental Health as Primary Care in NHIS, Association Tells FG

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Martins Ifijeh

The Association of Private Dental Practitioners of Nigeria has called on the federal government to categorise dental health as primary care in the National Health Insurance Scheme, instead of the present secondary care, which it said has made it less accessible to Nigerians.

Stating this in its Second Annual General Meeting in Lagos, President of the association, Dr. Ebere Nwauzor, said the NHIS has been designed in such a way that it was not favourable to Nigerians who require dental care.

She said if categorised as a primary care in NHIS, an average Nigerian with tooth ache can work into a dental clinic around his or her community and access care even without cash as long as the person is on the scheme.

“The private dentist should be very accessible to the average man on the street. People see dental practice as expensive because they don’t have access to it. They don’t even know that they should go to a dentist and not general hospital when they have tooth ache.

“We have the health insurance scheme that should enable people have access to dental care. Right now, the way NHIS is being run, some of us are not benefiting from it as planned, likewise Nigerians.

“In the plan, dental care is placed as secondary health care. This means that when a person has dental challenges and walks into a hospital, the doctor must refer him/her to a dentist before she can access dental care. What we want and are agitating for is that dental care should be made directly accessible to the patients and it should be regarded as primary healthcare service,” she added.

She debunked the claims that there were not enough dentists in the country, adding that the current NHIS was affecting penetration of dental services. “It is only when dental care is rated as primary care that we can begin to move into remote communities.”

She said despite dental problems being the most occurring health condition in the country, the federal government structure has made it impossible for practitioners to stay without jobs. “How many are we that we are still having dentists without job? If it is rated as primary, private dentists can begin to penetrate and establish in other rural places,” she added.

On his part, the President, Health Care Providers Association of Nigeria, Umaru Sander, who was the guest speaker, called on the federal government to make NHIS mandatory for Nigerians.

He lamented that it was only Delta State that has fully keyed into the scheme among the 36 states.