‘PHC, Strong Political Will Critical to Remodeling Nigeria’s Health Sector’

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By Ferdinand Ekechukwu

Apolicy dialogue for ideas and action for the Nigerian health sector, themed “Disrupting Health Care – PPPs as a Model for Health System Strengthening in Nigeria, organised by PharmAccess Foundation in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch, attracted stakeholders from across the sector. The aim of the health dialogue was to have a wider discussion and elaborate views of private sector engagement and what benefits it brings to the concerned entities; how it does impact in terms of alleviating the disease burden, reversal of medical tourism and revenue generation, using case studies of various PPP arrangements including but not limited to deals such NOH, NSIA, National Hospital Abuja, LUTH etcetera.

One of the key participants at the event, the founder and Chief Executive Officer, Flying Doctors, Dr. Ola Brown stressed the need for a robust Primary Health Care (PHC) system across the country and a strong political will to remodel the health care system on other developing countries by looking on what they have done with fewer resources. In her view, the Primary Health Care (PHC) is the foundation of any health care system. She noted that it is very important to have a strong PHC that is closer to the citizen and that when a lot of people have access to one facility the price of health care comes down.

Brown disclosed this during the policy dialogue held in Lagos. She said that the only thing hindering Nigeria healthcare reform is lack of strong political will to create the needed atmosphere for other processes to follow, adding that it has been the challenge facing the sector after the economic recession where she lost a lot of money as an investor in the sector. According to her, “One thing that we need in Nigeria is a strong political will towards our healthcare reforms, because if there is a political will for any project, particularly the health sector we would move forward. Our business was not so exposed to Nigerians and we made sure we have market that is global and leveraging on relationship and making sure that there is actually market in the gap despite the lost we had.”

Reacting on the need for government to change healthcare budgeting in Nigeria, she said the overriding principle in healthcare reform in Nigeria is to see how we can bring down cost of health care. “USA is spending 9,000 US Dollars/person on health care, Norway is spending about 7,000 US Dollars/person on health care, United Kingdom (UK) 4000 US Dollars/person, with this huge amount of money their healthcare system is struggling and are looking for more funds, people are not getting the quality of health care that they desire with 4,000 US Dollars. So imagine what 6 US Dollars can do for anybody in health care,” she questioned.

She further stated that “So we now have to start thinking about how we can do more with less and perhaps remodeling with healthcare system on other developing countries by looking on what they have done like Vietnam, India that have similar GDP/ per capital but have better outcome than us. “India had been able to reduce cost of health care to 1 percent  with the introduction of super specialist hospitals, these hospitals are able to do more procedures, the doctors are more efficient and faster, have zero waste policy, able to use more machine out of their hospitals and able to get more volumes of patients into their hospitals.”