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PSC role critical to success of Nigeria’s COVID-19 response- Mamora

By NAN
03 December 2021   |   11:55 am
The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the Presidential Task Force, which later metamorphosed into the presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, contributed to the success of the Nigerian COVID-19 response.

PTF PHOTO:Twitter

The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Olorunnimbe Mamora, says the Presidential Task Force, which later metamorphosed into the presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, contributed to the success of the Nigerian COVID-19 response.

Mamora said this at a two-day special National Council on Health (NCH) meeting on Thursday, in Abuja with the theme “The Journey to Attaining Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): Applying Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic Towards Building A Resilient National Health System”.

The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), reports that the 2014 National Health Act recognises the NCH as the highest policy-making body within the Nigerian health sector.

NAN also reports that the responsibilities of the NCH include the protection, promotion, improvement and maintenance of the health of the citizens of Nigeria and the formulation of policies.

The Council is also tasked with ensuring the delivery of basic health services to the people of Nigeria.

The minister said that the approach also showed the importance of multisectoral involvement in addressing health system and service delivery challenges.

“Therefore, going forward there is a need to build on these learnings and gains to ensure “mainstreaming health in all policies”. This is because several determinants of health are not particularly within the purview and jurisdiction of the ministry of health but other sister ministries.

“We now have new evidence that shows the impact of multisectoral collaboration in moving public health interventions forward.

“Existing and new relevant platforms can be leveraged to bring all stakeholders together to build a resilient and responsive health system that will propel the nation towards achieving SDGs,” he said.

He said that before the pandemic, the use of digital technologies in health was limited.

He, however, said that based on key learnings, the country had deployed digital technologies in both clinical and public health settings as part of the response strategy to the pandemic and these had further advanced effectiveness and efficiency.

“Some other measures include the use of telemedicine and guided telephone calls in consultations and service delivery, use of SMS in prescriptions and follow up, use of virtual platforms in training healthcare workers.

“Others include use of mobile apps in contact tracing and adverse drug reaction reporting and tracking, use of video calls to enable patients to have contact with their relatives during quarantine, isolation and treatment.

“The use of social media for health promotion, tracking fake news and addressing myths and fake information constitutes part of our strategy. These innovations have been shown to contribute to making our health systems more responsive.

“On this account, we will evaluate our investments in digital health to identify gaps that must be bridged and built upon through the use and application of digital technologies in healthcare delivery.

“This is because our COVID-19 response experience has shown that digital technology can be leveraged upon to bridge gaps and deficiencies in all facets of our health system and can be further maximized as an efficiency tool and instrument that will aid our national pursuit of the SDGs targets,” he explained.

Mamora reflected on the gains and challenges based on the strategies that were deployed at the early stages of the response to the pandemic; noting that there was the closure of international borders which consequently resulted in the scarcity of medicines and medical consumables.

“This challenge gave the country a push to look inwards with a view to harnessing our in-country capacity for the local production of medical products and consumables.

“For instance, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) produced COVID -19 PCR and rapid test kits, hand sanitisers, PPEs, and face masks during the closure of international borders.

“The National Institute of Pharmaceutical Research and Development also produced sanitizers and some other medical products. Currently, the Federal Government is working towards advancing local vaccine production strategies.

“This initiative will not only increase the availability of local medicine and vaccines but also contribute to the economic development of the country and human capital development. Furthermore, the pandemic resulted in reprioritized investments in public health preparedness infrastructure,” he explained.

He added that the country moved from three public health labs pre-pandemic to more than 36 molecular public health laboratories around the country.

“We now have five genomic laboratories for genomic sequencing and the availability of clinical oxygen has been boosted with approval for the installation of oxygen plants in all states of the federation.

“Although there is still much to be done in increasing investments in health infrastructure and boosting local production of medicines and vaccines.

“Leveraging on the investments done during the pandemic and effective use of the knowledge garnered will contribute in no small measure towards building a robust health system capable of accelerating the attainment of the SDGs,” he added.

The minister said that a key challenge faced at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic response was mistrust in the scientific measures in mitigating the pandemic.

“This showed up in vaccine hesitancy and poor compliance to physical distancing and the use of face masks. However, we used the strategy of engagement and working alongside community members through religious, traditional, and political leaders to surmount these challenges.

“Furthermore, we also engaged critical stakeholders to inform service delivery, decision-making, governance, and campaigns to meet the needs of our communities.

“These have been shown to be effective in developing trust and enhancing uptake in public health interventions for mitigating health emergencies. Therefore, we must strengthen community engagement as it has enormous potential for contributing towards our journey to achieving the SDGs,” he said.

Mamora noted that the COVID-19 Pandemic had made it clearer the need for the country to be able to rely on its healthcare system to provide effective, efficient services and very importantly with financial risk protection at all times, at all levels for our people.

“The National Health Act (NHAct), 2014 has provisions that can turn around our healthcare systems, but the challenge is implementation. Therefore, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we maximize the provisions of this law through the full operationalization.

“I have no doubt that if this is done, we would achieve a resilient and responsive health system that will move us close to our collective dream,” he stressed.