By Chioma Umeha
Worried over the deepening bleak situation in the country’s health sector, major players have blame this on what they described as crisis in healthcare financing, just as they are seeking for urgent intervention to resolve it.
Expressing their concern recently at the Health Writers’ Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) seventh annual symposium in Lagos, the experts linked proper healthcare with financing, even as they stressed on improved financing to alter the dismal health situation in the country.
The symposium which took place at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), also addressed challenges and effective approaches to reshaping the health system which impairs the lives of millions.
Topics addressed at the symposium were, “Disease Outbreaks: The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Experience,” by the CEO, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu and “Role of Media In Advocating For Increased Health Sector Budget in Nigeria, ” by the programme officer of Health Reform Foundation (HEFRON)/( PACFaH) the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health , Aanu Rotimi.
Others are, “Mental Health in A Recessed Economy,” by the Acting Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Richard Adebayo and “The Burden of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria” presented by Director General, National Agency for the Control of Aids (NACA), Dr. Sani Aliyu.
The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Chris Bode, who is the chief host of the event expressed worry over the poor state of healthcare financing in the country and urged health journalists to focus more on reporting health financing in the country.
Prof. Bode however wished many of the patients visited the hospitals early enough to get the best of treatment instead of waiting until they developed complications before being referred.
Also, he wished many of the patients could comfortably take their hospital bills and urged journalists to focus more on health financing in the country.
“I wish you could write more about health care financing. Someone must pay the bill – be it government or health insurance. Out-of-pocket payment is not what we should be talking about. Each one of us insures our cars yet, we don’t have accidents in three years. But in your family, somebody goes to the hospital within three months yet, we don’t have any insurance – even when we have it, does it work, does it meet us at the point when we need it?
The LUTH CMD also believes that the current government has made some positive impact on the nation’s health care delivery system which ought to engage the attention of the health writers.
He cited the reduction of industrial action by health practitioners saying this is fast becoming the norm in the sector.
Media and budget advocacy
In her presentation, the Programme Officer HEFRON/PACFaH, Rotimi , noted that health journalists are critical stakeholders in national development, hence advocating for improved health outcomes is a role they must play.
Aanu said: “Over the years, evidence has shown that media plays a vital role in mobilising people for national development. It is interesting to note the interplay of both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that determines what good health is all about. Appropriate allocation, prompt release and value for money utilisation of health funds are important.”
She specifically stated that the media should remind government to honour her various commitments on health financing, such as the Abuja Declaration that stated that 15 per cent of the country’s annual budget must be allocated to health and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 on ‘Increase substantially health financing.’
The next is the National Health Act that says one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) should be allocated to the health sector, among others.
The Programme Officer, however, regretted that health financing issues are not widely covered by the media, adding that health news rarely makes the leading headlines or cover page of media houses.
According to Aanu, other challenges of health finance reporting in Nigeria include “limited investigation on health sector funding , media owner’s philosophy towards health reportage, limited experts and interest groups to track and report health outcomes on health financing and limited demand in accountability by the media on health budget.”
As way of ensuring that government meets her commitment towards adequate funding of the health sector, Rotimi further urged the media to actively report issues surrounding health budget and finance.
Therefore, she urged the media to sensitize policy makers and other decision makers on the importance of domestic financing for health.
In his presentation, Dr. Stephen Olamide Oluwaniyi of Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba , said that the ratio of psychiatrists to population was 1:1,400,000 coupled with an out-dated Mental health policy.
Oluwaniyi who represented the Acting Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr. Richard Adebayo, said that since the onset of the current recession, he observed that the mental health situation has worsened.
He said: “For example, at FNPH, Yaba, we recorded a 59 per cent increase in new cases in 2016 compared with 2015.
“About 3.3 per cent of the health budget of the Federal government goes to mental health, with over 90 per cent of this going to mental hospitals.
“There are no social programmes specifically targeting the needs of people with mental illness, and a large number are left to their fate.”
Listing optimism , active coping skills, physical health social support networks, as components of resilience of mental health , Oluwaniyi mentioned other measures as, appropriate antenatal care, healthy parenting styles, healthy lifestyles , seeking appropriate treatment, positive childhood experiences as ways of protecting future generations from manifesting the negative effects of current recession .
HIV/AIDs: 90-90-90 Target
Speaking on behalf of Dr Sani Aliyu , Director General, National Agency for the Control of Aids , Dr Funke Oki, Deputy Director Programme Co-ordinator Department who noted that AIDS is the second leading cause of deaths among adolescents in Nigeria.
Dr Oki therefore said that states must take care of the HIV/AIDs programmes for sustainability and to achieve 90-90-90 goals of UNAIDs.
And to achieve these goals, he said, “We have to prevent new infections especially among adolescents and young people , identify all those that are currently infected and place them on ART and ensure that those on ART continue their medication to avoid treatment failure.”
One of the high points of the event was the presentation certificates of recognition to Prof. Chris Bode, the Chief Medical Director of LUTH and his counterpart at LASUTH, Prof. Wale Oke for their unalloyed support to the association .
Making the presentation was the immediate past President of HEWAN, Mr. Azoma Chikwe, who said in a citation while presenting the award said the two institutions led by the awardees have become very strong supporters of the association and have remained consistent in their assistance to the association, helping members to perform their duties of disseminating health information with ease.
He thanked them for their support and pledged that HEWAN and its members will continue to provide adequate and vital media coverage for their institutions as well as other Nigerian agencies providing critical healthcare services to Nigerians.