By G9ija

The Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) has appealed to the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu to appoint a seasoned administrator as the Minister of Health to revive the health sector.

Dr Chimela Ogbonna, the group’s National Chairman, made the appeal in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Lagos.

Ogbonna said that Nigeria needed ”to migrate from having clinicians as minister of health to having health professionals with expertise in health policy and management to redefine the country’s health system”.

“We have discovered that structurally the Federal Ministry of Health is in decay. The prowess of the people handling affairs at the ministry is questionable.

“The incoming administration, when appointing ministers, should not look at us who are healthcare professionals, let the incoming administration pick seasoned administrators to be Minister of Health.

“That was what President Olusegun Obasanjo did in 2004 to 2007 when he appointed Prof. Eyitayo Lambo, a seasoned health economist to handle the affairs of the health sector and he did marvellously well because he was not biased, he was an administrator per excellence.

“So, those of us who are clinicians or health professionals should go and face the clinics and manage our patients.

“We don’t have enough health professionals because many have left the country. Those of us remaining should go back to clinics and take charge,” he said in his advice to Tinubu on who to appoint as minister of health.

Ogbonna, who is also the Vice-Chairman, Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), called for the involvement of major health stakeholders in government’s planning and policy formulation.

He noted that several past policies failed because stakeholders were not involved from inception, saying these caused disharmony and policy somersault in the sector.

According to him, the incoming administration should endeavour to improve the annual budget allocation to health from the current six per cent to 15 per cent pledged by the Federal Government during the ‘Abuja Declaration’.

He noted that a viable health system required dedicated, efficient, and equitable health financing mechanisms, complemented by optional health insurance.

The president called for improved welfare packages for healthcare workers, noting that the present administration failed to place a premium on welfare, leading to strikes and crises in the sector.

“From 2015 till this moment, JOHESU had embarked on seven different nationwide strikes which ought not to be over issues that have lingered since 2014.

“Part of the demands of the ongoing nationwide strike called by JOHESU were caused by demands that lingered since 2015.

“Till this moment, none of them has been attended to, showing that this current administration’s focus is not on the health sector,” he said.

Ogbonna besides the advice to Tinubu on who to appoint as health minister also appealed to the incoming administration to place priority on workers’ welfare to reduce the brain drain and salvage the health sector.

He said that the health indices of the country were an indicator that the current administration failed in health, noting that maternal mortality increased in the country, especially in the northern part.

Ogbonna, however, commended the administration for its efforts in the elimination of polio, noting that the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 saw the government make frantic efforts in enhancing infrastructural development in the sector.

Similarly, Dr Tunji Akintade, former Chairman, Association of Nigerian Private Medical Practitioners (ANPMP), said the incoming administration should continue with improving infrastructure development in the sector.

Akintade noted that concerted efforts should be made to identify and bridge human resources gaps and address issues contributing to brain drain in the sector.

He said that the country should develop a health system that’s simple, sustainable, and localised to deliver quality healthcare to citizens.

According to him, power plays a critical role in service delivery, saying that challenges of energy should be solved to boost efficiency and productivity across all sectors.

Akintade noted that emerging and re-emerging infectious disease threats indicate the urgency of developing mechanisms for rapid response to disease outbreaks, building capacity for pandemic surveillance, and strengthening health systems.

He appealed to the government to strengthen its engagement with private health providers and also formulate policies that would enable private health facilities to thrive sustainably.

On the assessment of the current administration, Akintade commended the government for its effort in infrastructure development, strides in health insurance, and the awakening in primary healthcare.

Akintade appealed to the incoming administration to improve on the successes with a view to foster foreign investments in the Nigerian health sector and enhancing knowledge transfer, expertise, and best practices. (NAN)