CHUKWU DAVID reports the concerns raised by the Senate on the pathetic state of the primary health centres across Nigeria and the need to increase the funding of the various health centres in the country
In its early moves to begin to impact positively on the polity, by coming up with legislations or policies towards delivering good governance to the people of Nigeria, the Ninth Senate last Thursday, made far reaching resolutions on how rejuvenate the primary health centres across the country.
Consequently, during its plenary session, the apex legislative chamber, resolved to increase the budgetary allocation for management of primary health care, as a means of reviving the sector, which is currently comatose.
As part of its holistic proposal to rejuvenate the primary health care delivery in the country, the Senate also urged the Federal Ministry of Health to create awareness on the benefits of health and life insurance to the people of Nigeria, and the need for them to embrace the policy.
The Upper Chamber further directed the Ministry of Employment to put policies in place to ensure that every employer of labour has insurance package for employees, as this is currently not the case in most establishments, particularly the private sector in the country.
The apex legislative chamber also directed the Ministry of Health to ensure that government-backed Health Insurance Scheme was accessible to all citizens just as it also urged the same Ministry at the federal and state levels to encourage medical technological innovation in primary health facilities.
The Senate made these resolutions while considering a motion entitled, “the need for increased funding to primary health care”, sponsored by Senator Oluremi Tinubu, representing Lagos Central on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), and co-sponsored by 106 other senators.
Leading debate on the motion, Senator Tinubu noted that primary health care is a grassroots, community based initiative that provides health care services to communities, asserting that it was universally accepted that access to health care for all was only possible through prevalence and accessibility of Primary Health Care.
Tinubu further recalled that the Primary Health Care in Nigeria was adopted in 1988 by the National Health Policy to provide promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services, expressing concerns that a lot of the problems in Nigeria’s Health Sector could be traced to low performance of the Primary Health Care facilities.
The politician pointed out that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Primary Health Care would meet 80 -90% of a person’s health needs over the course of their life.
She expressed worries that the World Bank Service Delivery Indicators Survey showed that though available, performance of the Primary Health Care was hampered by lack of financial resources, infrastructure deficit, insufficiency/ lack of drugs, equipment and vaccines, among other encumbrances.
The politician drew the attention of the Senate to an information in a health journal, published by Frontiers in Public Health, which claimed that only about 20% of the thirty thousand (30,000) Primary Health Care Centres in Nigeria were working, with most of them lacking capacity to provide essential health services.
Tinubu lamented that due to the failure of Primary Health Care and the belief that it was for lower-income earners, there had been an influx of patients to Secondary and Tertiary Health Care Facilities in the country, which had in turn, exposed this level of health care system to undue pressure.
Contributing to the debate, Senator Chimaronke Nnamani, representing Enugu East on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who also seconded the motion, said that the primary health centers came about as a result of the Alma mater declaration of health for all by the year 2000.
He lamented that the primary health care centres had been abandoned by successive government, thereby making it difficult for the sector to accomplish the purpose for which it was set up.
He said: “the problem with the primary care centers is that they are orphaned institutions. Nobody has been able to appropriate ownership of these health centers; is it the local government, state government or the National Primary Healthcare Agency which also takes care of immunization through NDI?
“As the 9th assembly unfolds it’s legislative agenda in the area of health, we hope that the primary healthcare that forms a certain geographical area will form a nexus for integrated healthcare which will in terms of health, cover maternity services, follow the index child through immunization up to age five eight, follow that child through to age 18”.
All other senators who contributed, supported the motion and commended Senator Tinubu for coming up with the initiative, urging that all relevant stakeholders in the country should join hands and work towards proper funding of the Primary health care, for accessible, affordable and efficient service delivery to Nigerians.
In his remarks, the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan, stressed the importance of the primary health care to Nigerians particularly the rural dwellers, noting that the last assembly acknowledged this by appropriating 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to the health centre.
He however, urged that there should be prudence, transparency, probity and accountability in the way and manner the resources were deployed, so that the purpose of providing additional funds to the health sector would be actualised.
His word: “I want to commend all of us for our various interventions and support for this very important motion by Senator Oluremi Tinubu. I know that in the Eight National Assembly, we passed additional funding for the health centre; one percent of the consolidated revenue fund. That has brought about N60 billion into the health sector.
“However, I believe that the health centre needs more. But it is also important that there is prudence, transparency, probity and accountability in the way and manner the resources are deployed.
“The primary health centres are at the grassroots where our constituents ought to benefit from the social funding of the centre. When our standing committee on health is reconstituted, it is something we have to oversight very well. We must ensure that everything is streamlined”.
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