Stakeholders task Lagos governorship candidates on health sector
Stakeholders in the health sector have urged governorship candidates in Lagos State to consider healthcare delivery system and address challenges that encourage medical personnel to leave Nigeria for greener pastures if they win.
The experts, who held a one-day advocacy forum with some of the candidates, said voters deserve to know their plans for the sector, if elected to govern the state.
The forum, which was organised by the Legislative Initiative for Sustainable Development (LISDEL), in collaboration with UHC 2023 Forum, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Lagos State chapter, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media, x-rayed challenges in health sector and extracted commitment from the candidates on how to address the decay in the system.
Governorship candidates at the forum included, Funsho Doherty of African Development Congress (ADC); Akinwumi Braithwaite, National Rescue Movement (NRM); Olayiwola Olajide, African Action Congress (AAC); Ajayi Adebayo, Young Progressive Party (YPP) and Adenipebi Adekunle Zenith Labour Party (ZLP).
The forum was also organised to deepen the understanding of the political class and other stakeholders on the health security gaps and acquaint them with available strategic policy options for strengthening health and health security.
The forum encouraged them to prioritise health and health security in their development agenda and obtained commitments from the candidates on increased funding for the sector.
Charting a course of action for translating the candidates’ commitments into actions and engendering accountability, LISDEL Project director, Prevent Epidemics Project (PEP), Dr Gafar Alawode, said that any turn around in policy has to be backed by the political class, else it dies on arrival.
Chairman, NMA Lagos chapter, Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, lamented that healthcare workers are under threat in Lagos as members are being harassed, maimed and killed regularly.
He said: “It saddens me to say that we lost 1,800 doctors to Britain and other countries as at December 2022. This has crossed alarming levels and we need to ask how these candidates plan to make healthcare workers remain in the country, earn fair pay and have a better working condition. The brain drain is alarming, skilled workers are leaving Nigeria for other countries everyday for greener pastures and it’s worrying.”
Lagos Civil Society Participation for Development (LASCOP) Board of Trustees chairman, Ayo Adebusoye, said Lagos State has the largest concentration of private sector and there is no reason health financing cannot work.
Secretary, NMA Lagos State chapter, Dr. Ismail Ajibowo, in setting the objectives of the forum, urged the governorship candidates to disclose their plans for the healthcare delivery system in the state and sign an undertaking with the electorate on their promises.
Chairman, Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners (ANPMP), Makinde Akinlemibola, who spoke on “Lagos State Health Sector Reform: Challenges and Prospects,” revealed that over 50 per cent of their members left Nigeria with more on their way out. This, he said was not because of poor remuneration alone, but deplorable working environment.
“The system is broken and needs urgent reform. We need to retain our health workers still left in Nigeria and treat them better. Over 70 per cent of Nigerians still use private healthcare and we’re doing the best we can without government support of any kind. Health is a social capital and government alone cannot fund the sector, but it can’t be totally commercialised. To this end, we need to put in place policies and laws that will bring funds into the sector. Government needs to be more proactive. Some of the laws we have presently in the sector, including the health reform laws, were made without the input of private practitioners and they affect us negatively.
“Also, health workers are not well protected within the law. Health workers need improved remuneration, better working conditions and full medical insurance to enable them put in their best.”
Presenting a paper on Lagos State healthcare reform: challenges and prospects, Chairman, Medical Guild, Dr S. F. Ahmad, said while the prospects are promising and bright, the reforms and law still have challenges including financing, human resource management, health facilities regulation/monitoring and evaluation. Others, he said include overlapping of regulations and regulatory bodies, poor definition of state government roles in health facilities, alternative/traditional medicine status, absence of definite anti-quackery law in the successive reforms and the need for better definition of roles and rules of interaction at the local government level.
Speaking on, “Overview of health security, legal, policy and financing landscape in Lagos State,” state project coordinator, PEP, Hassan-Obalola Tawakalt, said that health should not be viewed the perspective of human health alone but also from animal and environmental health.
Speaking on his agenda for the sector, ADC governorship candidate, Doherty, said health is not a profit making venture, as it is everywhere in the world and promised that if elected, his government will increase funding of the sector in Lagos State.
NRM candidate, Braithwaite said his government will give a lion share allocation to the sector, as he promised to encourage private sector to invest more in the health sector.
For Olajide of the AAC, the present ruling elite has not placed priority on the state healthcare because they go for treatment in overseas, leaving the sector to suffer. He said he would create more Primary Health Care (PHC) centres across the state to reach people at the grassroots. “I will also push a bill to peg yearly healthcare budget to not less than 15 per cent of the total budget of the state, curb medical tourism and put laws in place that will prevent political office holders from going abroad for healthcare. We will also subsidise drugs for serious ailments to assist the poor.”
Adebayo (YPP), said he would reduce the brain drain and turn Lagos to the Mecca of good health, where every other person will troop for quality healthcare services.
Adekunle of ZLP, said when elected, he will get residents to key into health insurance, de-politicise PHC siting and discourage medical tourism as much as possible.