Paul Obi in Abuja

Experts at the 3rd THISDAY Healthcare Summit Friday pushed for more robust Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and private sector intervention as the best strategy to improve Nigeria’s healthcare system.

They contended that haphazard implementation of UHC has continued to impact negatively on the nation’s healthcare service delivery.

Speaking at the event, Prof. Aliko Ahmed of Chatham House, London, United Kingdom explained that political leadership was critical in addressing the inadequacies in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

Ahmed stressed that the drive to meet the UHC target would only be possible if political leaders show more commitment to healthcare service delivery.

He added that though there had been “a progressive increase in the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the talk about political leadership is a necessary factor needed to improve UHC.

Ahmed maintained that the challenge confronting UHC was more than funding, arguing that “perhaps the issues of corporate governance and leadership” were also crucial as healthcare “goes beyond the issue of funding.”

Health Specialist, Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), Mrs Chinekwu Oreh, observed that the forum was committed to strengthening the primary healthcare system across the 36 states.

Oreh stated that the NGF was advocating for the mandatory health insurance, and committed to state social health insurance scheme, with the need to serve as interface between the states and partners in providing adequate health care services.

President Healthcare Federation of Nigeria, Clare Omatseye, argued that the private sector was a strategic partner that could not be ignored by government.

Omatseye added that “there is no health without quality healthcare, we need collaboration, we need the private sector as a key player.

“The government is building ten thousand PHC across the country, but there is a disconnect between that and quality, policies are required to open up those opportunities for the private sector. The private sector is ready to work with states to change the narratives for health care.”

She expressed worries over Nigeria’s inability to use technology and improve healthcare in the country.

“We are not using the opportunities of technology to leverage healthcare service delivery, to keep our vaccines cool, our drugs. But some people are dying not because the drugs are not there, but because the wrong drugs are there.

On collaboration with the private sector, Omatseye cited the example of Lagos State where access to healthcare services had been created, including 43 PHCs which had been taken over by private healthcare providers.

On her part, Trina Haque of the World Bank commended the federal government for the new Basic Healthcare Fund (BHF), stating that,

“we are excited about what is being done with the basic healthcare fund. We are really at a transformation on healthcare, where healthcare financing is now from the federal, state and local government level.

Haque called for the setting up of “a mechanism to really reduce the burden of out-of-pocket spending on low income earners.

“We want to congratulate Nigeria, the next step is to ensure that money reaches its target. If partners are to come in, we don’t want to see different modalities being set up. We want to see a unified system and modality flowing down to the PHC, we don’t want a fragmented and duplicated system.

“The third is that, if there is a lot of money, it has to ne accounted for, everybody has to account for this money, so that we will know where the money has gone and what it’s being used for.”

She tasked government “to focus on maternal, child health, vaccination, ante-natal, pre-natal quality healthcare that is delivered to people who we need it.”

Haque further tasked government on accurate data on healthcare, stressing that, “making sure that the data that we are getting is accurate and appropriate for our health system is also very important.”