Dear Health Minister,
On behalf of the many Nigerians who crave a quality healthcare system so badly we welcome you on board.
Quite frankly you have been given an assignment that is so vital to the our collective survival and we are left with no option than to hope for the best.
You aren’t new to the Nigerian health system having been involved directly in the last four years.
You will agree with me that the myriads of problems in the health sector require a new approach.
An approach that maximizes the limited resources, prioritizes primary health care while ensuring quality at other levels of care.
The road to universal health coverage remains tough and primary healthcare is at its core.
A four year mandate is quite insufficient to tackle all the problems that have bedeviled the health sector for many years.
However it’s sufficient to make significant changes to public health administration and put Nigeria on the part to achieving Universal health coverage.
The Burning Issues
1. Primary Healthcare
One priority area needs to be the revival of the primary healthcare system.
The failure of the primary healthcare system is simply responsible for the pressure faced by the secondary and tertiary centres.
Therefore any intervention that doesn’t address the issues at the primary level is bound to be ineffective at best.
2. Wider Health insurance coverage
Alongside reviving the primary healthcare system is the need to get majority of Nigerians covered under the National health insurance scheme.
Today the fraction of Nigerians who pay for health services out of pocket is too high.
The informal sector is mostly left out of the insurance system and they is a dire need to get these persons covered.
It’s time to tap into the potential of the mobile phone and insure more Nigerians within the shortest possible time.
Almost everyone has one these days and the compulsory sim card registration already makes it an easy means of identification.
All we need to is design a system of collecting premiums and managing the database of persons enrolled.
3. Administration of Health insurance scheme
The National health insurance scheme itself needs to be run more efficiently and transparently to produce better results.
It cannot be business as usual
4. Improving Tertiary Care
This is probably not a time to build anymore hospitals rather just as suggested by Dr Ola brown in her book “fixing healthcare in Nigeria”
We need to make our current tertiary hospitals specialize more so that we can get the best equipment and personnel for such specialties at these centres.
This is the quickest way to develop local capacity and reverse the trend of medical tourism.
5. Inadequate Funding
Funding is going to be a challenge with the drastic fall in government revenues and more than ever before we will need to do more with less.
Of course you will need to convince the President on why greater investment in healthcare can yield huge economic benefits and boost human capital.
Focusing on our nation’s health priorities will be vital to your success in the next four years.
We wish you the very best as you carry out this challenging task
N.B Dr Osagie Ehanire is Nigeria’s new minister of health to be assisted by Senator Olorunibe Mammora