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COVID-19: Okowa calls for sustainable health financing in Nigeria

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Former Governor of Delta , Chief James Ibori (2nd left); Delta Governor, Senator Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa (middle); Immediate past Governor of Delta Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (left); National first Vice Chairman (NARD), Dr. Julian Ojebo (2nd right) and Commissioner for Health, Delta State, Dr. Ononye Mordi ( right), during the Opening Ceremony of Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors, (NARD) 40th AGM/ Scientific Conference, " Delta 2020" holding in Oghara, Delta State. Thursday. PIX; JIBUNOR SAMUEL.

THUR, 24 SEPT, 2020-theGBJournal-Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, has called for the adoption and implementation of a viable and sustainable healthcare financing programme for states in the country.

He made this call on Thursday at the 40th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) with “Health Care Infrastructure Optimization and Adaptation in the face of a Global Pandemic: The COVID-19 Challenge” as theme at Delta State University Teaching Hospital, Oghara.

Okowa said that with an abysmal 0.5 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in public health spending, Nigeria had one of the lowest public healthcare financing globally.

He also advocated for a national policy on responding and managing unforeseen public health crises

According to him, the absence of such a framework as well as the novel nature of the coronavirus posed a major drawback in articulating a coordinated response at the initial stage of the pandemic in the country.

The governor said that his administration had agreed to fund 80 per cent of the training requirements enshrined in the Residency Training Act (2017) as agreed with NARD and DELSUTH and urged the doctors to reciprocate the gesture with renewed vigour and commitment to their duties.

He commended medical doctors and healthcare providers for their courage, commitment and determination to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

He disclosed that Nigeria had survived COVID-19 and previous public health emergencies/outbreaks due to the sacrifice, dedication, ingenuity and resourcefulness of healthcare providers.

Okowa, however, said “regrettably, many of them got infected during the pandemic while some, sadly, paid the supreme price”.

Welcoming delegates to the conference, he said “coming against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is my considered view that this meeting offers us a good opportunity to review the ongoing national efforts to combat the epidemic as well as assess our readiness to respond appropriately to future public health emergencies.

“I believe we can turn this crisis into an opportunity to bolster our health infrastructure, expand capacity and upgrade manpower in the health sector in such a way that our healthcare system will be better poised to deal with future outbreaks.

“Testing was a huge problem because of the shortage of human resources, testing kits, laboratories, and case definition for testing that prioritizes symptomatic cases and their contacts.

“The whole country only attained a daily testing capacity of 2,500 samples late in July, which is a far cry from what it should be for a country of our size.

“Testing was not only extremely low; it took days before the results could be known.  Confronted with a fast spreading disease like COVID-19, the delay meant the virus could spread unchecked as it hindered early contact tracing.

“Here in Delta, samples had to be taken to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo State, which served the entire South-South geo-political region of the country.

“The wait was excruciating and exerted immense physical/mental toll on critical health personnel who had to be making frequent trips to Irrua.”

The governor added that the government was able to enter an arrangement with Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in partnership with Pan African Network for Disease Outbreak Research and Rapid Response (PANDORA) to establish a molecular mobile laboratory in Delta.

According to him, since then we have conducted over 9,000 tests in the state while confirmed cases are 1,799 as at Friday, September 18.

“In Delta, we developed a strategic implementation plan focused on clear deliverables that are in line with the provisions of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund component of the National Health Act.

“Similarly, the guidelines of the National Health Insurance Scheme were aligned to the prevailing peculiarities of the Delta State healthcare service system.

“As the frontrunner in the implementation of this scheme, I am proud to inform this gathering that Delta State Government has accredited 405 health facilities comprising 268 Primary Health Care Centers, 66 Secondary Healthcare Facilities, 65 Private Healthcare Facilities, one Federal Medical Center, three Abuja Healthcare Facilities and two Lagos Healthcare Facilities to operate the scheme.

“Total number of enrollees is currently 788,740. We can be proud of the progress we have made even though there is still much work to be done.

“In the post COVID-19, there is a compelling need to adopt and implement a viable and sustainable healthcare financing programme for all States in the country.

“Each State is primarily responsible for the financing and implementation of its healthcare system. A healthcare financing programme that is focused on up-scaling primary healthcare services, enhancement of human-resource-for-health capacity, deployment of a technology enhanced healthcare services delivery process and improved access to measurable quality healthcare services outcome for all, is an imperative.”

The governor, who also inspected ongoing rehabilitation of facilities at DELSUTH, expressed his administration’s readiness to extend same to other facilities in the state within the limits of available resources.

Chairman of the occasion and former Governor of Delta, Chief James Ibori, in his remarks, commended Governor Okowa and former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan for conceiving the idea of building the teaching hospital in Oghara.

He said that doctors were at the vanguard of saving human lives, especially in the pandemic and urged them to remain dedicated to the course of humanity.

On his part, Uduaghan, who was Guest of Honour at the event, congratulated NARD for their dexterity in being the “military arm of NMA”.

He commended Governor Okowa for approving the Residency Training Programme for doctors in the state.

He added that on commencement of the Delsuth in 2010, his administration engaged diaspora doctors, nurses and pharmacists to exchange ideas.

“The staff mix helped the image of the hospital to successfully carry out knee replacement surgery and kidney transplant with partnership from the University of Texas.” Uduaghan stated.

President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof Innocent Ujah in his goodwill message said NARD has evolved over the years to become vibrant, progressive and a dynamic affiliate of the NMA.

He commended the outgoing executive for their focused leadership and urged members to extend same support to the incoming administration.

Chief Medical Director of Delsuth, Dr Onome Ogueh said Delsuth was the apex health institution in the state with a vision to provide world class health care for all Deltans. He said the hosting of the 40th Annual General Meeting of NARD in Delsuth was the first time a state university teaching hospital was playing host to the NARD Secretariat.

National President of NARD, Dr Aliu Sokomba, represented by First Vice President, Dr Julian Ojebo said the pandemic had brought a new challenge to medical practice in a very poorly funded health industry in Nigeria.

He said NARD fought to ensure domestication of the Residency Training Act and lauded the contributions of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa to the National Health Act as well as his pioneering efforts towards domestication of the Residency Training Act.

Highpoint of the occasion was the presentation of several awards to Governor Okowa as the Ambassador for State Health Tertiary Institutions in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the National Health Act and implementation of the Residency Training Act 2017.

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