FG Seeks Increased Private Sector’s Investment in Healthcare

Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed

Obinna Chima

The federal government has called for increased private sector investment in the health sector in order to improve the nation’s healthcare system.

The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, said yesterday that the federal government was striving to ensure increased access to high-quality healthcare for every Nigerian, remove debilitating constraints and create sustainable structures to strengthen the sector.

She spoke during the virtual inauguration of the NSIA-Umuahia Diagnostic Centre (NUDC), alongside the Governor of Abia State, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu.

Other top government officials that participated in the event were Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and Minister of State for Budget and National Planning, Mr. Clem Agba.

Ahmed said: “Indeed, investing in our people is investing in the economy. The administration recognises that progress in the health sector is handicapped by several bottlenecks. With full appreciation of this issue, we have worked and continue to work to ensure that systems are introduced to bridge these gaps.

“One such step in this direction is our intervention in addressing non-communicable diseases such as cancer. We have created an enabling environment for institutions such as the NSIA, to execute high-impact projects that deliver immense value for the people of Nigeria.

“We recognise that these modest efforts to address the gaps in our secondary healthcare system alone are insufficient to address all the challenges facing the sector. We expect private investors to increase their participation so that we can have more of such healthcare facilities.”

In his remarks, Ikpeazu expressed optimism that the medical facility would redefine healthcare service in South-east and South-south regions of the country.

“As the leader of the state, I promised to support the facility by ensuring that there is an enabling environment for it to thrive for many generations to come,” he added.

On his part, Mamora urged the NUDC’s management team “to take up the challenge of ensuring that the confidence reposed in them is earned by guaranteeing that the quality of service at the facility is never allowed to deteriorate.”

“As a medical doctor, I understand the challenges of operation with sub-par equipment. Government is stepping in to address this difficulty and therefore the team running the centre must justify the investment,” he stated.

The Managing Director/CEO, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, said the agency’s vision for healthcare was a three-fold one which centres around reducing medical tourism, developing and investing in centres of excellence, which will provide world-class healthcare services domestically and lastly, providing tools to ensure that healthcare professionals are able to deliver at the highest level.

Orji said the inauguration and operationalisation of the centre was a journey that started in 2015.

He said the NSIA embarked on the project because it discovered acute deficit of modern and automated medical diagnostics infrastructure which had led to the prevalence of delayed or inaccurate diagnostics for critical medical cases.

“Consequently, the NSIA commenced a diagnostics programme, which aims at developing and operationalising modern centres in each of the geopolitical zones. Each of these centres is like a collection point across the surrounding states. So, we expect that this will play a very big role in terms of improving the quality of healthcare, not just in Umuahia, but across the sub-region.

“The NSIA Umuahia centre was built in 18 months. This project is a build-operate-and-transfer via a special purpose vehicle that born 90 per cent by the NSIA and 10 per cent by the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia,” he explained.

According to Orji, the completion of the centre will raise the bar in the quality and standard of diagnostic services in the South-east and South-south region.

The NUDC facility is the second advanced diagnostic centre to be inaugurated by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) in six months and the third healthcare centre of excellence operationalised by it, following the commencement of services at the NSIA-LUTH Cancer Centre in Lagos in 2019 and the NSIA-Kano Diagnostic Centre in Kano in 2020.

The Umuahia medical diagnostic centre is located within the premises of the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia (FMCU).

Structured under a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement between the NSIA and the FMCU, the project is a $5.5 million Greenfield investment for the construction, equipping and operation of full-range advanced diagnostic centre co-located in FMCU.

The centre is equipped with a gamut of radiology equipment including a CT scanner, X-ray machines, mammography machines and ultrasound machines. It is expected that the centre will conduct up to 35,000 patient investigations within the first year of operation, providing high quality diagnostic services that had previously been unavailable in the South-east and South-south region.

The centre is operated by Statpath, which is a joint venture company between Synlab (formerly Pathcare) and Crestview. Synlab is a world-renowned provider of pathology services and Crestview is a renowned provider of radiology services in Nigeria.

The boards of NSIA and FMCU are confident that this project, along with the other healthcare investment by the NSIA, will serve as proof of concept to attract additional investment to Nigeria’s healthcare sector, thus encouraging other organisations to join the effort in bridging the healthcare infrastructure gap in Nigeria.