By Victor Anya
Ambassador Dr. Iyke Odo, President of Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria said that health insurance was the backbone of quality healthcare services anywhere in the world. He stated this during the 42nd Annual General Meeting and International Scientific Conference organized by the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, held at the Golden Tulip Hotel, Festac, Lagos between Wednesday 18th-Sunday 22ndMarch, 2020. Speaking on the topic: The Nigerian Private Health Sector-The Uncelebrated Heroes of Our Healthcare Delivery, he noted that the National Health Insurance Scheme started in 2004 and that 16 years after the scheme began, it could not be said to be doing well.
Dr. Odo added that 95% of Nigerians have no health insurance and that only 5% of Nigerians have registered for the NHIS that is not functioning well while 95% of Ghanaians have registered for the scheme in Ghana that started the scheme just five years ago. He said there was no healthy nation without quality health insurance system. He informed the audience that AGPMPN has made a pledge to provide universal health suffrage in the year 2030 to save one million Nigerian women as a pet project of AGPMPN. He added that there would be introduction of mobile health solution in the six geopolitical zones of the country all aimed at providing quality healthcare to Nigerians.
Speaking further, Dr. Odo stated that private medical practitioners were the pillars in the healthcare sector saying that over 70% of Nigerians depended on them for their healthcare needs, making them “indispensable partners of government in stabilizing not just the health system but the nation’s economy.” He appealed to government not to perceive private medical practitioners as businessmen but as partners in progress in the healthcare sector, saying that functioning and effective healthcare system is driven by the private sector. Dr. Odo noted that AGPMPN was poised to ensuring qualitative, available, accessible, affordable, equitable healthcare system driven by a health insurance system.
Dr. Odo who described the healthcare system as a veritable sector for investment said that investment in the sector would yield huge returns as he added that twenty years ago India was not a force to reckon with in the provision of healthcare but that today the healthcare service has become the third top foreign income earner for India as the country has become a health tourism nation. He called on investors to invest in the healthcare sector and turn Nigeria into a medical paradise like the Asian country-India.
In addition to the above, the President of AGPMPN stated that some hurdles on the way of private medical practitioners in the country included but not limited to poor healthcare financing where loans are accessed at exorbitant interest of 27% while loan facilities cost a single digit interest in India between 7-8%, in Europe and America between 1-3%. He advocated for a health bank in Nigeria to guarantee a single digit loan interest. Speaking in the same vein, he opined that in climes where healthcare is taken seriously, there are discounts on taxes, rates, utility bills and income duty waivers for medical devices and consumables. He called for the replication of same policy here in Nigeria.
He identified the problem with the National Health Insurance Scheme as “It suffers political arrhythmia, economic ischaemia and population insufficiency.” He added that the NHIS was not functioning optimally because of lack of awareness on the path of the masses and poor knowledge of the scheme by some of the operators. He affirmed that for Nigerians to be healthy, the health insurance scheme must be fixed by making it compulsory; involving the vulnerable in the society; devoid of political gimmick and ensuring transparency and leadership. He noted that majority of the health maintenance organizations (HMOs) are being managed by unprofessional hands thereby complicating the problems associated with both the national and state insurance schemes.
Speaking on the AGPMPN envisioned project for the year 2030, Dr. Odo bemoaned the poor healthcare system in the country saying that a situation where 95% of poor Nigerians pay for medication from their pockets instead of by a health insurance was not acceptable. He lamented that Nigeria has one of the worst maternal and infant health indices in the world. He noted that 40% of Nigerian doctors serve in foreign lands and that Nigerians spends approximately $1 billion in foreign medication every year. He declared that the AGPMPN envisioned to achieve universal health coverage in the year 2015 as the National Health Insurance Scheme was launched in 2005 and that AGPMPN missed that opportunity. He declared that AGPMPN has set a new date to achieve universal health coverage by the year 2030.
He informed the participants at the conference that private medical practitioners will intervene in the health sector in a tripod: (1) To Awake Nigeria Project (National wide Sensitization and Mobilization); (2) Save One Million Nigerian Mothers Initiative and (3) Mobile Health Solution. He added that AGPMPN would host a one day dialogue on a private sector initiative in health so as to formulate a policy thrust in the health and also to launch ₦5billion Private Sector Healthcare Support Intervention Fund to be held in September 17th, 2020. Speaking further, Dr. Odo called on government, government agencies, the private sector community, captains of industries and all stakeholders in the economy of Nigeria to partner with private medical practitioners of Nigeria so as to revamp the health sector in a project known as Private Sector Partnership Initiative.
Concerning the deadly corona virus pandemic, he called on Nigerians to observe the simple protocols as directed by the NCDC by washing their hands, wearing facemasks, maintaining social distancing, going into isolation if they have the symptoms associated with the virus.