Yemi Osinbajo

Hope brightens for the health sector as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo tells participants at the third THISDAY Healthcare Policy Dialogue that disbursement of the Basic Healthcare Provisions Fund will commence in August. Martins Ifijeh reports

When the Senate on May 16 earmarked N57.15 billion in the national budget for the Basic Healthcare Provisions Fund (BHCPF), not many people believed the implementation will start early. This was considering that it took about four years after the passage of the National Health Act for the senate and the federal government to finally set aside that amount for basic healthcare.

But Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced at the third THISDAY Healthcare Policy Dialogue held in Abuja last weekend that the federal government will start the release of the funds in August. Many stakeholders in the health sector believe this is the beginning of new things for less privileged and vulnerable Nigerians.

BHCPF
The BHCPF is a separate fund outside the usual healthcare allocation in the national budget, to cater for basic healthcare needs of all Nigerians, especially those living in rural and hard to reach areas. The fund also means that at least one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund in the 2018 national budget will be deployed for the revival of healthcare.

In his speech at the meeting, Osinbajo said with the funds, Nigerian children would no longer suffer from preventable diseases. He said maternal mortality would be put under control, while parents will be helped to engage in effective family planning.

The vice president stated, “The initiative will also help Nigeria achieve universal health coverage and help the country drive institutional process on primary healthcare. For the first time this year in Nigeria’s history, one per cent of the national budget has been earmarked for the implementation of the healthcare policy. This amount is far from being sufficient to fund the basic healthcare needs of the country, but it is a good start.”

He said it was against this background that the federal government took very seriously the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which he said some states had also joined with a view to providing the needed healthcare services.

At the second THISDAY summit held in April, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, had said the BHCPF will henceforth be called HUWE, which is an Ebira word meaning ‘Life’, adding that the word is derived after an extensive crowd sourcing campaign. He said the BHCPF logo would be displayed at accredited facilities where citizens could access the basic minimum packages of health services.

He said, “The BHCPF is intended to ensure monies are disbursed, managed and accounted for in a transparent manner. It will also ensure that funds flow from source (at the federal level) to service delivery points, creating performance incentives for providers, increasing service utilisation and health worker productivity, and monitoring service delivery, including improvements in service delivery readiness in line with accreditation standards and operating protocols.

“The BHCPF will complement on-going efforts of states and local governments to mobilise resources for health. It is not intended to provide excuses to underfund or deprioritise funding for healthcare services.”

According to him, the BHCPF provides the platform to expand high impact and life-saving interventions to all Nigerians. “It guarantees an explicit package of services to be delivered at the facility level through the NHIS and State Health Insurance Agencies (SSHIAs), and operational budgets to facilities to improve the quality of service delivery based on a quality improvement plan with quantifiable outcome measures,” he stated, adding, “The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) will assess on an annual basis the improvements in quality of care based on a set of metrics.”

Basic Healthcare
Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Lanre Tejuoso, had earlier told THISDAY that the inclusion of the funds for the BHCPF meant primary healthcare would be better funded and functional basic drugs, equipment and infrastructure, including water and electricity, will be available at Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) nationwide.
Tejuoso said, “By this fund, PHCs in each ward in the country will be operational and functional. At least 2,000 vulnerable Nigerians in each of the 774 local governments will receive basic healthcare paid for by this fund.
“Now that the BHCPF will be a statutory transfer that will certainly enjoy release, the fund will be set aside perpetually. It will not be returned to the Treasury Single Account at the end of the budget year.”