Okowa: Strong Political Will Can Address Healthcare Funding in Nigeria

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Martins Ifijeh

A strong political will from Nigeria’s Executive and Legislative arms of government is the precursor to achieving increase and prioritizing of healthcare in public budget, the Governor of Delta State, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa has stated.

He said this should go a long with adequate and timely release of budgeted funds to meet the healthcare needs of the country’s 180 million citizens.

Gov. Okowa, who spoke at the recently held THISDAY Healthcare Financing Policy Dialogue in Abuja, and was represented by the Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Delta State Contributory Health Commission (DSCHC), Dr. Ben Nkechika, said Nigeria’s healthcare indices is low compared to other developing countries of the world, adding that adequate prioritizing of health in public budgets is very crucial for a healthy population despite the declining revenue due the challenging economic situation in the country.

“Considering the hugely positive socioeconomic impact from a healthy populace on the prosperity of a nation, investment in healthcare should be considered a priority in public budgets for an improved health Indices and a vibrant economy. A healthy population will lead to increased productivity, an increase in GDP and wealth of the nation.

“Despite the low budget approvals for healthcare over the past years, certain questions arise; what amount of this low budgetary provision was actually released for implementation? Whatamount released was effectively and efficiently applied,? And what planning strategy was in place at the budgeting stage to ensure value, positive impact and good health outcomes from the implementation?,” he queried.

He said in Delta State, this strong political will has significantly created a vibrant healthcare financing process for the actualization of Universal Health Coverage in the State despite the very challenging economic situation as a result of the dwindling oil price and the increased disruption of oil facility activities.

“This political will has transcended from the policy framework through strategic planning and budgeting to a legislative process that has institutionalized healthcare financing in Delta State with the establishment of the DSCHC.

“So far the DSCHC has achieved significant milestones we are proud of and we will continue to ensure and advocate for improved healthcare financing to achieve better health outcomes and Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria,” he added.

Gov. Okowa, who is also a medical doctor, said the DSCHC, which was signed into Law on the 4th February 2016, so far has a total of 154,768 pregnant women and children below five years under the Equity Health Plan with premium paid for by the State Government.

“We also have a total of 44,531 public service workers and their dependants under the Formal Health Plan with premium contributed monthly by the workers along with the counterpart contribution from the State Government on behalf of each worker.

”We have 5,262 widows under the Informal Health Plan with premium paid for the State Government as part of the State Social Welfare Scheme for Widows (cumulative total of 204,561enrolees) eligible to receive healthcare services in 107 government primary healthcare facilities, 62 Government Secondary Healthcare Facilities and 10 Private Healthcare facilities accredited for the Scheme,” he said.