By Chuks Okocha
Nigeria’s governors yesterday day ended their 13th teleconference meeting with a resolution that the Federal Ministry of Health and its agencies should engage with the National Assembly Health Committee and State Commissioners of Health to harmonize a workable strategy that will facilitate the speedy release of the Basic Health Care Fund (BHCPF) to fund primary health care activities at the subnational level.
In a communique of their meeting signed by the chairman, Governor Kayode Fayemi, the governors reviewed the concerns of the resident doctors and interface with the Federal and State Ministries of health to address the concerns of resident doctors in the country, by settling backlog of salaries where such exist, reintegrating residency training in State Hospitals where they have been suspended,
The governors also called on the federal government to provide protective equipment and ensuring sustainable pathways to uphold the welfare of doctors in an effective and efficient manner.
The governors also resolved to engage with the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to take on the new State Fiscal Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) additional Finance as grants to States following the momentum on fiscal accountability and sustainability generated by the current SFTAS programme and the need for sustained funding for State governments in the wake of the fiscal pressure that accompanied the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the communique of the meeting, the governor congratulated State governments since the creation of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum for their contribution to the delisting of Nigeria from the global polio map as Nigeria on June 18, 2020 attained the status of being Wild Polio-Virus-Free.
The Forum commended the commitment of all stakeholders, including the Federal Ministry of Health, the Dangote Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their strong domestic and global financing support which was instrumental to strengthening the country’s capacity for surveillance and routine immunization.
The governors said that the achievement of Nigeria as a polio free country was a great milestone for the public health history of the country.
The communique said that their conscious intervention in ending the strike action of the Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), who had commenced a nationwide strike on Monday 15th June 2020 over unpaid salaries, improved hazard allowances, the unavailability of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers and those of their colleagues working in high-risk areas, non-domestication and non-implementation of Medical Residency Training Act was based on an agenda of their meeting
Another issue discussed, the communique said, was the harmonization of Right of Way (RoW) charges across States and bilateral discussions with the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Ali Pantami, geared towards promoting investments in broadband infrastructure in the country.
The meeting said that the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, Chairman of the NGF State Fiscal Transparency, Accountability and Sustainability (SFTAS) Sub-Committee that interfaced with the World Bank to facilitate the provision of Additional Financing for States to support governments’ response to the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the communique, the World Bank Task Team Leader for the SFTAS program, Yue Man Lee provided an update on the 2019 Annual Performance Assessment and preparatory arrangements for the US$750 Additional Financing.
Also, the communique said that the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, presented a newly developed 3-year Health Sector COVID-19 Response Action Plan which is aimed at repositioning the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic over a medium-term outlook.
The Minister, the communique said also assured State governments of the availability of about a million Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for health care workers in the various facilities throughout the country.
The Minister of Health, the governors said was supported by the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Professor Mohammed Sambo and the Executive Director/CEO of National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA)
The communique said that Dr Faisal Shuaib also provided clarifications on observations raised by the states on the new guidelines on the implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and the need to fast track its release in the light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, when increased health response is required and when State governments are experiencing financial strains that threaten their ability to meet counterpart obligations.
According to the communique, the President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Sokomba Aliyu also made a presentation conveying the concerns of resident doctors including, among others, the non-implementation of residency training in most States of the federation, non-payment of salaries and the use of inappropriate salary structures in some States.
Dr. Aliyu also told Governors about a particular state where a 25% salary cut across board also affected resident doctors most of whom continued to work, arguing that there was no basis for slashing the salaries of his members who instead of staying at home are encountering even added challenges at work.