The Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), says it will establish six regional geriatric centers in tertiary hospitals with a view to improving the health status of older persons in Nigeria.
Dr Saidu Dumbulwa, the Coordinator, Healthcare Package for Improving Quality Care on Ageing Population in Nigeria (HEPIQ-C), disclosed this in an interview in Abuja on Monday.
Dumbulwa, who is also a Public Health expert, said the aim of establishing geriatric centers was to address the health and social needs of the elderly in the country, through the HEPIQ-C project.
He said the project was designed to advance elderly peoples’ health and address some developmental issues relating to them.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari, had acknowledged the social and health problems the elderly population faced and saw the need to facilitate actions that would promote healthy living at old age.
According to him, governments are now becoming aware of the need to enact policies that would cater for the needs of the elderly who have become vulnerable, because people have forgotten that everyone is heading towards that stage.
He said that the ageing population in Nigeria was increasing and there was yet to be a concrete strategy, framework or system, for managing the social and health structure of the aged.
Dumbulwa noted that research assessment survey conducted in 2017 on Knowledge, Attitude and Practice (KAP), of healthcare workers in the ageing sector, showed that they lacked training on geriatric care and gerontology.
“This might be one of the main reasons why adequate funds are not appropriately allocated to the care of older persons, as budgetary allocation goes with defence and justification.
“Based on the foregoing observation, the Nigerian government, following the regional World Health Organisation (WHO) meeting in Addis Ababa in 2016, set in motion an actionable strategy with a view to improving the health status of elderly in Nigeria,” he said.
The coordinator said that the Federal Government came up with the HEPIQ-C, to address the obvious aberration and neglect of the aged.
According to him, this includes increased budgetary allocation and involvement of development partners, with a view to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Speaking on how to identify issues that the elderly were facing in accessing health and social services in Nigeria, Dubulwa listed challenges such as lack of affordable health insurance, out of pocket health expenses and dearth of age-compliant public buildings, and transportation.
Others, he said, were lack of education, inadequate information, lack of community and family support, as well as poor social support and rehabilitation.
“Following efforts by government, private sector in Diaspora, and coalition of elderly, we collectively pushed for the establishment of the National Senior Citizens Centre, which will address the health and social needs of older persons in Nigeria.
“This effort by President Buhari to assent to the bill addresses substantial part of the problems of older persons.
“In addition, Mr President approved the allocation of one per cent of Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF), to deliver healthcare to the vulnerable population, mainly children, women and elderly.
“50 per cent of the fund goes to the National Health Insurance Scheme, to procure health services and insurance for the vulnerable groups.
“Also, 45 per cent goes to the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, for training of healthcare workforce and procurement of consumables for day to day activities of the primary health care centres.
“While five per cent is for health emergencies at the FMOH (Federal Ministry of Health),” Dabulwa added.