Doctors seek speedy implementation of NHIA Act
•NMA says establishment of Health Bank will increase access to funds, develop world-class medical facilities, reverse medical tourism
Medical doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) have called for the speedy implementation of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act, which promises to expand healthcare coverage to 83 million eligible Nigerians.
The NMA, in a communiqué released at the end of its 62nd Annual General Conference & Delegates’ Meeting (AGC/DM) held, penultimate week, in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, reiterated the need to establish a Health Bank, which will increase access to funds to develop world-class medical facilities and reverse medical tourism.
NMA President, Dr. Uche R. Ojinmah, and Secretary General, Dr. Jide J. Onyekwelu signed the communiqué.
The Conference, tagged, “Garden City 2022”, was held from May 15 to 22, 2022 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, with the theme, “Current Emergencies in Building a Resilient Health System for Nigeria: Situation Analysis and Solution.” The subthemes were “Epidemics and Pandemics in Nigeria – Past, Present, and Quo-Vadis; The Challenges of Human Resources for Health in Nigeria: Innovative Solutions and Prospect, and Environmental Degradation: Health Impacts and Solutions.”
The conference noted that out-of-pocket health expenditure by Nigerians remains a monstrous impediment to access to healthcare by Nigerian families. “The ADM, therefore, applauded the recently signed National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act, which promises to expand healthcare coverage to 83 million eligible Nigerians by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, (GCFR); President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” it noted.
The meeting observed with immense concern the delay in legislative concurrence by the National Assembly to the Medical and Dental Practitioners Bill (Repeal and Re-enactment) 2021 with consequent negative implications on the regulatory functions of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and medical and dental practice in Nigeria.
The NMA emphasised the central role of the dwindling Nigerian health workforce and its harmful effects on the health outputs and outcomes of the ordinary Nigerian and decried the lack of political will in implementing the relevant policies that will promote development and retention of Human Resources for health.
The conference noted with immense displeasure the non-payment of salaries to members in the employment of Abia State government for 25 months, leading to a mass exodus of doctors from the State employment and the attendant negative impact on health care delivery in the State. “Furthermore, this action has led to disruption of medical education with the loss of accreditation to train medical students by the state’s teaching hospital. ADM was particularly worried about the emergence of a similar ugly trend in Imo and Ondo state governments, where members are owed six months’ salaries and Ekiti State, which is in arrears of two months’ wages,” it noted.
The DM commended the parties involved in the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and affiliates of the NMA, namely Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) and Medical and Dental Doctors in Academics (MEDSABAM) and appealed to the Government of Nigeria to speedily resolve all matters in the interest of industrial harmony in the health and educational sectors.
The DM observed that the Federal Government of Nigeria has yet to implement the Circular approving the new Hazard Allowance for doctors released in December 2021 due to the extension of the 2021 budget to May 2022.
The DM urged government at all levels to demonstrate strong political will and commit to implementing policy documents that will bring about the needed paradigm shift in Nigeria’s health sector.
DM reiterates the need for Government to commit 15 per cent of the annual budget to the health sector in line with the Abuja Declaration by Africa’s Heads of State in 2001.
DM reaffirms that a vibrant Primary Health Care System remains the backbone of the healthcare delivery system and urged the Government to direct efforts towards revamping the hitherto comatose tier of the Nigerian healthcare system.