Govt urged to privatise clinical services in public health institutions – PSN

By: Chioma Umeha

The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has condemned the use of 88 per cent of health budget on recurrent expenditure, of which 82.5 per cent is dedicated to human resources overheads. Giving the breakdown, the PSN National President, Olumide Akintayo, said that about 61 per cent is gulped by salaries of sometime an over bloated clinical staff in federal health institutions of the total cost reserved for healthcare and staff emoluments. 

Akintayo a press briefing on the World Pharmacists Day, organised by the association at its corporate office, Pharmacy House, Anthony, Lagos, lamented that over 50 per cent of total health budget is dedicated to paying only one cadre of personnel in healthcare, in recent times. The PSN boss therefore called on immediate intervention of every level of government to cut down the 88 per cent recurrent expenditure on personnel emolument of some clinical staff and divert same to other capital projects as well as research and development initiatives. He regretted that Nigeria’s health budget has not exceeded six per cent, since the country joined other African countries to sign the ‘Abuja declaration’ in 2001 which stipulated that participating governments should dedicate 15 per cent of their budgets to healthcare. His words: “In 2001, the various Heads of Government of different African states met in Abuja and resolved under what is now popularly dubbed the Abuja declaration that National Governments should dedicate 15 per cent of their budgets to Healthcare. He continued: “Despite being a signatory to this declaration, the highest that has ever been dedicated to health since 2001 by the federal government is a meager six per cent of National budget in 2012.” 

He said the budget situation is inimical to the health system, insisting that this leads to worsening state of health infrastructure in the country. He said: “We at the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria continue to critically evaluate healthcare expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product and the analysis paints a very dangerous picture. He added: “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has observed that over 88 per cent of health budgets are dedicated to only recurrent expenditure. Out of this huge cost a whopping 82.5 per cent is dedicated to only personnel expenditure. “Of the total cost reserved for healthcare, staff emoluments about 61 per cent is gulped by salaries of sometime an over bloated clinical staff in Federal Health Institutions. In apocalyptic terms, what has played out in recent years is that over 50 per cent of total health budget is dedicated to paying only one cadre of personnel in healthcare, Akintayo. “The unfortunate scenario depicted above is one of the reasons why healthcare infrastructure remains in a limbo and endeavours which facilitate Research and Development are completely comatose in an ever dynamic health sector in the global arena,” he concluded. 

According to him, there is need to harness    the    potential    of    the    private sector    in redressing the country’s healthcare needs by promoting privatization of the services of public health institution in the country. “The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria is compelled to call on the federal government and indeed government at all levels to see an urgent need to drastically reduce the unproductive recurrent expenditure invested in personnel emolument of some clinical staff which can be diverted to fruitful capital projects as well as Research and Development initiatives,” Akintayo said. The PSN boss particularly advocated for the privatisation of some level of clinical services especially at the out-patient department levels – primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare in the country. He noted this approach will involve the use of proven private sector players from private hospitals to take over the running of some services in public sector hospitals. “In some areas where service might be in higher demand clinical service providers might be hired on locum basis as we have seen been successfully implemented by some state governments in Nigeria,” he said. 

The advantages inherent in this model are numerous, Akintayo said, adding that it is a check to incessant strike embarked by health institutions that suppose to provide services to the masses. The National President also noted that the value of the private sector in the area of service delivery which has remained under-utilized will be fully utilized in the health sector. He further reasoned that in the absence of an active public clinical service provider at some of the delivery points in the hospitals, government can dedicate more funds to revamp infrastructure and equipment of secondary and tertiary levels in particular. He said that the Nigeria institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development as well as Nigeria Institute of Medical Research will also be beneficiaries of the process as substantial votes to these institutions will ultimately re-position healthcare in the country. Speaking on the theme of the year’s event which is: “Pharmacists – Simplifying your medicines use, no matter how complex,” Akintayo said it parallels the theme of the 73rd FIP world congress: “Towards a future vision for complex patients: integrated care in a dynamic continuum.” He observed: “Change is sweeping pharmacy and healthcare on a global scale. 

A new era of healthcare development brings with it much hope. As more solutions become available to patients – whether they are medicines, therapies or services provided by healthcare providers, pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists can help with their ever more complex care, the National President said. He said: “Our pharmacists need to move away from the traditional role of just dispensing medicines to helping patients use their medicines more efficiently with the ultimate goal of optimizing the impact of medicines, minimising the number of medication related problems and reducing waste. “Our pharmacists need to be empowered to provide this much needed service to people in the community. Government bodies and other healthcare professionals need to understand the impact that pharmacists can have in promoting and increasing adherence to medicines and give their full support and collaboration to improve the health and wellbeing of the population,” Akintayo said. 

He also said that pharmacists will devise strategies to help complex patients and tailor pharmacy education to optimize patient care as part of future initiatives in meeting global and international standards. 

This story was published in Newswatch Times on September 28,  2013.


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