Medical association advocates for intervention fund in health sector

Cyril Okonkwo, Abuja

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The Nigerian Medical Association has advocated for the establishment of an intervention fund, similar to what obtains in tertiary institutions, for the improvement of health facilities in Nigeria.

The associations have also called for the setting up of a health bank to ease the problems that private medical practitioners encounter in getting creit to fund their hospitals.

President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduliye, stated this on Tuesday while speaking with State House correspondents after leading executive members of the association to pay a courtesy call on President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

“On the part of improving health generally in both the teaching hospital and federal tertiary institutions, we have called on the government to see how they can have an intervention fund, like they have done for Nigerian universities, TETFUND (Tertiary Education Trust Fund), so that we can improve the facilities. 

“This point-by-point increment may not do the required effect that we want.  If we have an intervention fund, we can sequentially take care all of our federal, state health institutions.”

According to Dr. Faduliye, the setting up of a health bank would add fillip to the development the Nigerian healthcare delivery system by providing loans at single digit interest to private medical practitioners.

He said: “We have said that it is important that it is important for government to help and ease their problems by bringing up a health bank akin to the BOI or Bank of Agriculture, where you can actually go and obtain loan with single digit interest. 

“Today, if you obtain loan, you have 25% and the second month they expect you to pay back and there is nobody in the health sector that can break even on that.

“It puts a lot of pressure on them and they cannot access the loan, but if you have the health bank, I’m very sure that they can obtain it and they will have a moratorium. 

“We have advocated for a 10-year moratorium for them to pay back so that we can improve the facilities and the practice of health, especially in the private sector. 

“As it is, we should know that it is the private sector that can actually improve the health ratings in this country because they constitute a large number of groups of medical and dental practitioners that treat our patients.” 

Primary healthcare

On primary healthcare delivery in Nigeria, Faduliye urged state governments to show more interest in funding the programme, stating that the NMA is “not satisfied with the progress made at the primary healthcare centres.”

According to him, the federal government has built facilities at the primary health centres, but the state governments have the responsibility of employing staff at the facilities.

“We have not been able to have compliment of staff in those places and that is why we have suggested to the president that we should look at ways of encouraging the states to employ medical personnel and other health professionals so that we can properly staff the primary health centres.

“At the primary health centres, we need to take cognizance of health education, you need to take cognizance of hygiene, nutrition; and you need medical personnel to be in those places to discuss with the people at that level.

“But when you don’t have staff, they are as much as having big edifices, which the federal government done and which we appreciated, but we need others to compliment it so that we can have it working effectively for the benefit of our people.”

Dr. Faduliye also said that the NMA would monitor the expenditure of the one percent allocated to primary healthcare in the 2018 Budget from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

Industrial harmony

Dr. Faduliye said that the issues that cause crises in the sector were being addressed because the professional associations in the health sector were closing rank.

“All those things that have been causing disharmony have been discussed amongst ourselves and we are working as one body. 

“You can see that in the last few years, there has been a large level of stability.  We have had one or two strikes here and there, but not on a large scale.  But those ones are local strikes.”

However, he stated that there might be an imminent strike because of the failure of the federal government to pay doctors under its employment the corrected salary scale.

“Those of us who work with the federal government have since 2014 been advocating for the payment the corrected salary scale.  It has not been done. 

“We have painstakingly discussed with government agencies and we are supposed to have gone on strike. 

“The last time we met with the president, he told us that we should dialogue more and we promised him and we have kept faith. 

“We reminded him that even with that if he does not come into the impending crisis, in fact we will have a strike action because of the laxity of some of our agencies. 

“But we can assure you that we are doing everything with the government and the president to ensure that we don’t go on strike.”

Health summit

The NMA president also announced the National Health Summit that is coming up between 4th and 8th November 2019 here in Abuja.

He said it would be attended by Conference of African National Medical Associations, CANMA and the Commonwealth Medical Association.

According to him, the Commonwealth Medical Association General Assembly will, for the first time in history, elect a Nigerian as its president.

Omolayo.A