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How to make quality healthcare more affordable, sustainable, by Abajue


Chief Executive Officer of Hygeia Health Management Organisation (HMO), Mr. Obinnia Abajue

Chief Executive Officer of Hygeia Health Management Organisation (HMO), Mr. Obinnia Abajue, in this interview with MERCY JERRY, speaks how to make healthcare more sustainable along these lines of affordability and quality.

What are the challenges in the Nigerian health sector and what solutions would you proffer?
No sector is without challenges, the health sector inclusive, because people, processes, regulations, systems and technology are involved. Nigeria’s health sector has its fair share of challenges, some of which are financing and low budgetary allocations.

Challenges aren’t dead ends, but opportunities to improve the lives of millions of Nigerians. One important solution to the Nigerian healthcare system is a change in value. Nigerians must come around to value their health and paying accordingly for the services provided. The Federal Government must be willing to invest more into healthcare management and in creating awareness for personal responsibility. This investment would enable a proactive approach to disease management, vector control and even sanitation infrastructure. The frequency and cost of managing malaria, cholera and typhoid will reduce drastically with these measures. Furthermore, medical practitioners will be better compensated and encouraged to provide better healthcare, because they deserve it, having spent years to train and at a great cost.

However, there is an improved focus on funding for primary healthcare from the government, as they have earmarked one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to go to a Basic Healthcare Provision Fund. This is very positive news. With good execution, it could lead to improved public health outcomes. There is also an increase in the allocation for health in the 2018 budget, although we can do better.

With improved basic infrastructure, stable policies and regulations, more private financing options should come into the sector. More Nigerians will get health insurance, which helps reduce their overall expenditure on health. This would encourage private investors, because they will get returns on their investments, knowing that policies won’t change suddenly.

It is important to understand that both private and public sectors are partners in providing healthcare. Emphasising this partnership and supporting it through policy and regulations would make a significant difference.

What do you seek to achieve with this event?
The conference is geared towards promoting sustainable healthcare in Nigeria. This is the second conference. We started this in 2017 and so far, we have been able to stimulate conversations about the needed solutions to a myriad of challenges in the health sector. Our goal is to create a constructive and safe space for influential stakeholders in Nigerian healthcare, including patients, medical practitioners, regulators and financiers, to discuss and raise issues that impact the present and future healthcare in Nigeria.
Speaking on accessible, it is important to ensure that healthcare services are affordable and of good quality. If it’s not affordable, Nigerians cannot have it. If it’s not of good quality, what is it worth? The mission of this conference is to enable us collectively figure out how to make healthcare more sustainable along these lines of affordability and quality.

We live in a country that has the bulk of its population less than 35 years old. The implication is that our productive years are still ahead. Therefore, this becomes a critical necessity for our society.

What plans have you put in place to sustain this discussion?
Discussion is sustained by collective engagement and recognition of its value. At Hygeia HMO, we are committed to providing support for this conference to continue. We are encouraged by the response the conference has so far received, especially from our medical colleagues, policy makers and regulators.
The conversation will also continue as we achieve more milestones in Nigerian healthcare, knowing that thought leadership isn’t fully delivering on its purpose unless it inspires progress to be made.

How does the conference plan to address the disharmony in the sector, especially with the recent rift between Joint Health Social Union (JOHESU) and Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)?
This is a challenge that can be addressed with increased honesty and transparency. We need to support the entrenchment of regulations and standards that are fair and where people who fall short of them, they are held accountable. Practitioners and participants must display and operate with competence and integrity.

The goal is to always have the best outcomes for patients at the fore of every stakeholder’s goals. If Nigerians are not getting the quality healthcare they have paid for and professionals are not getting good value for the expertise and service they provide, we will go nowhere.

In this article:
HMOJOHESUObinnia Abajue
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