Groups flay N357b health sector capex in seven years
The country’s health sector has received, as capital expenditure (capex), N356.7 billion in the last seven years, a development described as the harbinger of the endless woes in the sector and huge medical tourism.
The capex component of every budget is regarded as development plan for the benefit of the masses and the poor allocation means that on average, each person among the estimated 196 million Nigerians, has only N1,820.2 in terms of capex provisions till the end of 2018 fiscal year.
More worrisome is the fact that between 2012 and 2016, available data showed that out of N221 billion capital expenditure, only N136 billion was released, while N129 billion was actually spent.
The principal founder of Microsoft and co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, during his visit to Nigeria, in March, this year, said: “If you invest in health, education and opportunities– the human capital….they will lay the foundation for sustained prosperity. If you don’t, however, then it is very important to recognize that there will be a sharp limit on how much the country can grow.”
But the Lead Director of Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, at the Civil Society Consultative Workshop on Health Sector Medium Term Sector Strategies (MTSS), noted that the sector has remained without strategic attention, especially the poor indices compared to global economies on maternal and child care.
According to him, although the capex recorded about N30 billion increase in 2018 budget, the recurrent expenditure also had an increase of more than N17 billion, while health sector budget as a percentage of the total budget fell from 4.15 per cent in 2017, to 3.91 per cent in 2018 and far below the international benchmark of 15 per cent.
He said that despite the uncertainty around continued inflow of aides by developed countries and donor agencies, particularly in the control of diseases that require vaccines, as well as HIV, Nigeria is still seeing reasons to make proper provisions in the sector.
Dr. David Agu of the Development Strategy Centre, Enugu, maintained that healthcare financing remains one of the major determinants of access to healthcare services, lamenting that while the country’s population increases at 2.8% per annum, budgetary provisions for the sector’s infrastructure remain stagnant.
For him, while the inadequate budgetary provisions may lead to greater challenges in the future, the government can lead the change by advancing strategies that would be preventive in nature than curative.
He said that government can boldly discourage early marriages as a way to curb the obvious inadequacies associated with maternal and child care, as well as reduce the risk and likelihood of contracting VVF due to underdeveloped bodies before first pregnancies.
The move, he said, would also reduce the risk and likelihood of maternal and/or child mortality, which the country still records and an amendment of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Act to cover for employers/employers in the private sector.
Besides, he said the administration of NHIS, should be comprehensive and all-inclusive, against the extant selective approach and the revision and update of National Strategic Health Development Plans, including vaccine production and procurements.
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