The Nigerian Medical Association on Friday faulted the ₦221.7 billion to the health sector in the 2016 Appropriation Bill, saying it portends disaster.
While suggesting that the allocation should be urgently reviewed in the interest of justice, the organisation called on the National Assembly to halt this looming disaster in the healthcare delivery sector in 2016 immediately.
The association described the allocation as a sharp departure from the prescribed 15 per cent of the national budget for health made in 2001 during a meeting of African Heads of States and Government which Nigeria hosted in Abuja.
In a statement by its President, Dr. Kayode Obembe and Secretary-General, Dr. Adewunmi Alayaki,
NMA observed that the deviation has posed a huge moral burden for the country in going against her own avowed commitment despite the emerging challenges and resultant burgeoning demands from the sector.
The association said although it was not ignorant of the current realities of dwindling oil revenue and contracting fiscal space, it was of the view that the markedly diminished allocation of 3.65 per cent in the 2016 budget would never encourage the advancement of Universal Health Coverage which is the only panacea towards improving availability, access, quality and efficiency of the health services to reduce the disparaging health indices that continue to malign the image of Nigeria in the comity of nations.
“We are also in shock as the ₦60 billion (equivalent of at least 1 per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund) envisaged to accrue as the Basic Health Provision fund as enshrined in the National Health Act 2014 was conspicuously absent from the budget proposal as presented,” the association said.
“Coming at this auspicious occasion of budgeting under the reassuring change mantra, it is our considered opinion that Nigeria should show the way and provide leadership in Africa after having failed in this regard since 2001. Facts from available evidence show that whereas 33 per cent of countries have allocated at least 10 per cent of their national budget to health with only Tanzania, Rwanda, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Malawi and Central African Republic attaining 15 per cent. Nigeria has been revolving between 3 per cent and 6 per cent.”
The NMA also expressed dismay that contrary to the recommendation of the World Health Organisation that national budgets should allocate the equivalent of ₦6,908.00 per head (General Government Health Expenditure per Capita), reports from the World Bank reveal that the 2016 federal budget only provided for ₦1448.00 ($7.55 at $1=₦197) representing a retrogression from ₦1,546.00 in 2015 and ₦1,653.00 in 2014.
“This presents a precarious situation as all other contributions from state and local governments; donor agencies and other sources cannot bridge the deficit of ₦5,460.00 in this regard. It is on this premise that we call on the National Assembly as the only organ that could mitigate this looming disaster in the healthcare delivery sector in 2016 at this juncture, to look dispassionately without any partisan sentiments at what should be done to substantially increase the allocation to the health ministry in order to deliver better healthcare to the Nigerian people”, the NMA stated.
The NMA however appreciated with great expectations, the lofty ambition of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health to revitalise 1000 primary health centres in Nigeria by 2017 beginning with one per senatorial zone in the first instance.
The organisation promised to assist government in playing her role in budget tracking to ensure that budgeted and released funds were used for the purposes they were appropriated.
While also calling on state and local governments to allocate substantial resources to the healthcare delivery sector and encourage donors and philanthropists not to be fatigued at this critical point in Nigeria’s history, the NMA restated its loyalty, commitment and readiness to partner with government to deliver prompt and efficient healthcare to Nigerians.
“In this era of reduction in oil revenue, the economy will rest mainly on human resource potentialities and manpower developmental output. Therefore the only road to economic recovery is for the government to guarantee basic minimum package of healthcare to every citizen through UHC. The panacea for the UHC is Community Based Health Insurance. This is achievable by increased budgetary allocation to healthcare (15 per cent) and operationalization of National Health Act”, the NMA said.