Governors of the 36 states in the country have expressed support for increased budgetary allocations to the health sector as part of efforts towards achieving target on universal health coverage.
The governors under the auspices of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) described health financing as a critical building block of the health system that directly impact on the functionality of the overall system.
The chairman of the NGF and outgoing governor of Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi, said in order to solve the problem of financing for primary health care and meet the demands for a responsive and high-performing health system, the country must approach primary healthcare financing and service delivery with new ideas in mind.
Fayemi who was represented by the Nasarawa state governor Abdullahi Suleiman at a Conference on Primary Healthcare Financing organised by NGF and health commissioners from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Abuja, yesterday, said, “until we address the issue of poor funding for health and the fragmentation of the health financing arrangements in Nigeria, the country will make little or no headway in its pursuit for Universal Health Coverage.”
He said there was need for an increase in budgetary allocations for healthcare both at the national and state levels as well as the exploration of innovative ways to pool funds for non-contributory healthcare coverage.
“To solve the problem of financing for primary health care and meet the demands for a responsive and high-performing health system, we must approach PHC financing and service delivery with four key focuses in mind,”
Fayemi said the governors were in support of the utilisation of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) to finance essential health services, especially for the vulnerable and to improve the country’s capacity to address public health emergencies.
He said: “An increase in budgetary allocations for healthcare both at the national and state levels. The exploration of innovative ways to pool funds for non-contributory healthcare coverage.”
According to Fayemi, it was encouraging to know that varying degrees of effort were already in place to achieve some of the focuses.
For instance, the NGF said a good number of states have established their State Health Insurance Schemes and have purchased explicit packages of health services for their citizens. States are also increasingly taking advantage of the BHCPF programme to expand access to primary health care and service delivery.
According to Fayemi, some states like Ekiti were working with partners to adequately quantify the medium- and long-term costs of providing a Basic Package of Health Services for vulnerable groups to ensure sustainability and evidence-driven financing.
“As we may know, health systems are driven by their financing arrangements, and this includes the number of funds they receive, how these funds are distributed across the system, and how they are utilised to provide equitable access to services.
“Health financing is a critical building block of the health system that directly affects the functionality of the overall system, and until we address the issue of poor funding for health and the fragmentation of the health financing arrangements in Nigeria, we will make little headway in our pursuit for Universal Health Coverage.
“It is a fact that the right to health is a fundamental human right. However, the ability of our country to guarantee this right for all Nigerians has been slow, largely due to how the health system is financed and delivered,” he said.
Fayemi lamented that the poor health situation was further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic which he said exposed significant weaknesses in the health sector, especially in primary healthcare.
He observed that countries with strengthened primary health care systems were better equipped to respond, therefore, the challenge before the nation was in ensuring that primary health care in Nigeria was financed sustainably to ensure risk protection, adequate infrastructure and human resources and the delivery of quality health services.
“However, for these efforts to achieve population-level outcomes, we must collectively encourage and catalyse them at scale. Given this, the Nigerian Governors Forum at the recent launch of the Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge committed to a progressive increase in State-level funding for primary health care through the provision of efficient budgetary allocation that aligns with our annual operational plans. The NGF remains committed to working with the Federal Government and all partners to achieve our goals for primary healthcare and universal health coverage,” he said.
Fayemi said the partnership in eradicating Polio, and the inclusion of health-focused presentations in the monthly NGF meeting agenda, were examples of great collaboration, which he said must be sustained and built upon.
In his welcome address, the commissioner for health and human services, Yobe State and vice chairman health commissioners’ forum Dr. Muhammad Lawan Gana said the event was designed to share, showcase, highlight state level performance and accountability and also examine the problems of PHC financing, interrogate how Nigeria can fund Primary Health Care services especially for her poorest and most vulnerable populations towards making other general government investments outside the health sector count.
The executive director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib said over 70 per cent of healthcare needs were being handled by the primary health centres in the country, adding that this makes the facilities very relevant.
Also the director general of the Nigeria Health Insurance Agency (NHIA), Professor Mohammed Sambo said there was need to develop sustainable funding options to drive compulsory health insurance scheme if the country was to achieve universal health coverage.