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Health budget for 2017 is poor

By Editorial Board
15 January 2017   |   3:35 am
The complaint of medical practitioners over the abysmally poor allocation for health in the 2017 budget is understandable given the poor healthcare delivery system in the country and the need to make it better.
Primary Health Care

Primary Health Care

The complaint of medical practitioners over the abysmally poor allocation for health in the 2017 budget is understandable given the poor healthcare delivery system in the country and the need to make it better. Concerned groups in the healthcare sector are quite right in their passionate appeal to the Federal Government to allocate, at least, 15 per cent of the 2017 budget to healthcare in line with the Abuja Declaration of 2001.

The health budget allocation for 2017 is a meagre 4.15 per cent, though a marginal improvement on the 3.73 per cent figure of 2016. No doubt, the goal of universal health coverage through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) for Nigerians cannot be met with such a spending plan.

It needs to be emphasized that all levels of healthcare delivery, especially the primary healthcare system, need to be strengthened with a view to having a healthier citizenry.

Reports indicate that in 2017, the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of health (FMoH), plans to refurbish 10,000 primary health centres (PHCs) across the 774 local government councils and at least seven teaching hospitals in the six geopolitical zones of the country. With so little funds available, this must be a tall order. The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), while reacting to the health budget had said the 4.15 per cent budget estimate in 2017 is still less than one third of what is expected of any country, going by World Health Organisation, WHO standards.

The United States of America allocates 20.7 per cent of its revenue to healthcare, Germany 19.4, Iran 17.5 per cent, China 12.6 per cent and Turkey 10.7 per cent. Nigeria must therefore do the right thing.

While Nigerians await the dramatic increase in funds’ provision for the people’s healthcare at least, from single digit percentage point of the budget to a double, the immediate implementation of the National Health Act by the Federal Government will go a long way to cushion the effect of the low budget for healthcare in 2017.

That the Federal Government, once again, made such little allocation to healthcare underscores the insensitivity of the authorities to public health. A healthy nation is indeed a wealthy nation and there is no other way of changing the deplorable state of healthcare in the country than adequate funding.

The healthcare facilities are in horrible state, the conditions of service are bad for the personnel and the policy environment is discouraging. Wealthy Nigerians who can afford it continue to flock to foreign countries to seek medical care while the poor are left with no other option than to probably die or simply vegetate. This is a sad commentary on the level of leadership responsibility in Nigeria, a country that is supposed to be the giant of Africa.

As a matter of fact, virtually, all the issues leading to poor healthcare provision in the country stem from the humble state of health infrastructure and inadequate funding.

Every other critical need for a world-class Medical care is available in Nigeria, especially, in terms of healthcare personnel as the country is blessed with some of the best medical practitioners in the world.

Unfortunately, many of these doctors have been compelled to leave for better environment and facilities abroad where the service conditions are also more rewarding. So, in addition to the poor health infrastructure, poor remuneration has been responsible for the mass exodus of Nigeria’s competent hands in healthcare delivery and the country is poorer for it.

The endless complaints about poor funding is not only a shame to Nigeria, decades after independence, that this country is still failing in basic healthcare provision, which is why there is high rate of maternal and child mortality in the country, is an embarrassment of unimaginable proportions.

Turning this around depends on a responsible and committed leadership, which get its priorities right. The demand for increased benchmark funding of the health sector is, therefore, totally in order. The danger, if government fails to do the right thing, is that Nigeria, already unhealthy economically, may become a comprehensively unhealthy nation, in which the citizens have very poor medical care too.