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Cardiologists seek review of NHIS Act to accommodate heart treatment procedures




Raises the alarm on hypertension in younger population
Cardiologists have called on the Federal Government to urgently restructure the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for more Nigerians to access treatment for heart-related ailment.

The experts, who spoke at the 45th Annual General Meeting /Scientific Conference of the Nigerian Cardiac Society in Abuja, yesterday, observed that the current system of paying out of pocket for heart treatment procedures have made treatment out of reach for the people, thereby increasing death rate.

They are worried about the increasing number of younger people going down with heart-related ailments, especially high blood pressure. They called for regular checks for people of all ages.

Speaking with The Guardian, the President of the Nigerian Cardiac Society, Prof Chinyere Mbakwem stressed the need for government to develop policies to subsidise treatment for heart and related ailments as done in other countries.

Mbakwem, a consultant cardiologist at Lagos State University Teaching (LUTH), also called for greater funding for government-owned hospitals to boost their capacities and reduce the amount paid by patients.

She said: “Economic hardship affects cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) in diverse ways. The obvious one is the ability to afford the right quantity and quality of healthcare. Payment for healthcare in Nigeria is majorly out-of-pocket. So as resources dwindle and inflation climbs, the purchasing power of the citizenry diminishes greatly. Also, most pharmaceutical companies have increased the cost of their drugs because of the current exchange rate.

“Patients may also have difficulty adhering to lifestyle modifications like increased fruit and vegetables intake. As such patients may begin to consume what is available and not necessarily what has been advised.’’

She said the experts were taking advantage of the conference to boost local capacity to handle related ailments by training existing and younger professionals on skills to be able to manage cases in Nigeria.

Associate Professor of Cardiology and Consultant Cardiologist at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Dr. Augustine Odili, said Nigerians should take regular checks and exercises more seriously to maintain a health living.

He said: “During periods of economic hardship individuals tend to work extra hours to make ends meet. There is no time allocated to exercise which is a necessary healthy heart promoting habit.”

He alerted on the increasing prevalence of chronic non-communicable diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and stroke.

He also harped on an effective health insurance scheme that captures more Nigerians and stressed the relationship between recession and heart-related ailment.
He added: “If the cause of the problem is removed, the problem will disappear. In this case, the cause is economic hardship. Another thing that may help a great deal is a well-developed health insurance which is key to solving chronic diseases.’’

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