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Experts advocate public health insurance for sickle cell patients


Sickle cell patient

With the lack of proper management of sickle cell disease, which has led to its high incidence and increasing death rate in the country, experts have called for public health insurance for sickle cell patients to enable them access quality healthcare in discounted rate, as well as to decrease the menace of the disease.

They opined that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which made provision for the treatment of the disease at some extent, had only captured “a small number of Nigerians” who are public servants at the federal, state and local government levels, with no provision made for non-government workers and the underprivileged masses.

According to the World Health organization (WHO), Nigeria accounts for about 75 per cent of infant sickle cell cases in the continent, with over 100, 000 children dying from the disease every year in the country, while, 40 million Nigerians are carriers and an estimated one million persons living with sickle cell disorder, putting Nigeria as the country with the highest level of sickle cell disorder globally.

Also, statistics given by the Acting Executive Secretary of NHIS, Malam Attahiru Ibrahim, states that less than five per cent of Nigerians had been covered by the Health insurance scheme

Speaking to journalists at the Crimsonbow Sickle Cell Initiative (CSI) Project, Keep A Warrior Warm Phase 2, a medical practitioner, Dr. Ameze Odia, said, with her vast working experience in the health insurance industry, there was huge vacuum in the country’s health system, which does not provide access or affordability of healthcare, as the cost of managing sickle cell patients is very high, particularly to a low income worker or a middle class citizen.

“Most health insurance and the health system in general, in this part of country, does not have accommodation for sickle cell patients, they have not made allowances and adequate arrangement for them to have access to health care to a discounted amount and the cost or burden of the cost on managing of sickle cell patients is very high,” she intoned.

She stressed that most people lost to the crisis was because they could not make it to the hospital, as they were afraid that when they get there without cash, they would not be treated, adding that the government should start with giving 48 hours free treatment for sickle cell patients, especially in crisis to stabilize the patients.

Meanwhile the Founder/ Chief Executive Officer, CSI, Timi Edwin, who bemoaned medical practitioners for the negligence towards administering treatment to the patients to prevent crisis, called for increased awareness of genetic counseling for intended couples, especially, the underprivileged, to prevent giving rise to the numbers of people with the disease.

She said, couples, irrespective of their love, should go for their genotype testing in hospitals before marriage to avoid giving birth to sickle cell children, which live with the trauma all through their lives, adding that the right care and medication should be taken to manage the disease.

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