The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has called on government at all levels to strengthen the health sector and ensure that COVID-19 marks a turning point for healthcare financing and healthcare services.
The association’s President, Prof. Innocent Ujah, made the appeal at a news conference to mark the commencement of its 2020 Physicians Week in Ibadan on Monday.
Ujah, represented by Dr Ayotunde Fasunla, the Chairman, NMA Oyo State branch, said COVID-19 pandemic must jolt the Nigerian government to adequately invest in healthcare systems.
He said the scaring statistics of the nation’s health indicators had been further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and was clearly unacceptable to the Nigerian doctors.
“For Nigeria to achieve this objective of improved healthcare will involve strengthening six core components which are service delivery, health workforce, health information systems, improving access to essential medicines.
“Others are paying more attention to healthcare financing and ensuring good governance in leadership at all levels.
“In addition, we must honour our constitution and the international human rights treaties we have ratified that guarantee all the right to health.
“The right to health includes ensuring availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality healthcare, good facilities and services,” he said.
“The Abuja declaration is a significant political commitment that supports African countries’ obligations to fulfill the right to health.
“COVID-19 must mark a turning point for healthcare financing and healthcare services.
“The present moment offers a unique opportunity to strengthen our health system through greater access to life-saving technologies, improvements in critical subsystems, long-term investments in institution building and capacity building as well as leadership development,” Ujah said.
He said the association further recommended that the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) be made compulsory for all adult Nigerians, as well as the establishment of the Health Bank and intensification of Public Private Policy (PPP).
“Relatedly, the government should as a matter of urgency implement an upward review of the current abysmal poor hazard allowance paid to doctors and other frontline health workers in public service.
“Whereas Nigeria has a ratio of one doctor to 5,000 Nigerians with many of these doctors chronically overworked, yet they are not adequately motivated, encouraged nor incentivised in any form.”
Ujah also said the association would use the celebration of the 2020 Physicians Week to engage in medical outreaches to the communities in various isolation centres and its frontline health workers.
“We also use this medium to condemn the kidnapping and killing of doctors and other health workers by insurgents.
“And therefore, urge the Federal Government to do all within its power to rescue those in captivity, while ensuring the security and safety of other health workers as well as every other Nigerian,” he said.
According to NMA boss, the association has also condemned state governments owing doctors salaries and allowances for upward of 11 to 16 months.