We need political commitment to strengthen Nigeria’s health system- Abayomi

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By Oluwafunke Ishola

Lagos, Oct. 20, 2020 The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, says there is need for political commitment toward strengthening the Nigeria’s healthcare system post COVID-19.

Abayomi made the assertion on Tuesday in Lagos at the opening ceremony of the 2020 Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Physicians’ Week.

He spoke on the theme: ‘’Strategy for Health System Recovery During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Nigeria.’’

Abayomi said leaders should be proactive and not reactive.

He advised them to follow the tenets of Universal Health Coverage and the principle of “leave no one behind” to ensure equity and access to healthcare for citizens.

According to him, the three tiers of government should ensure the provision of adequate safety nets that will enable delivery of healthcare package to all citizens.

The commissioner called for a strong regulatory mechanisms that would make the practitioners to be cognisant of the need to deliver benchmarks and standard operating procedures for all healthcare activities, whether in a laboratory, clinic or radiological facilities.

Abayomi added that the standard international benchmarks protect the practitioners and country from aberrant.

He, however, stressed the need to build quality healthcare and ensure trust among citizens.

The commissioner added that COVID-19 had assisted to renew the public trust in the Lagos State Government’s response strategy for healthcare system.

He said there was a need to sustain more and better public healthcare financing and harmonisation of health investments.

“We don’t have a clear cut financing strategy for health.

“There are different tiers of health financing- Federal, State, Local Governments, development partners and the private sector.

“We need to build a clear cut financing strategy for health and recognise that health is no longer a social service as we have often seen it.

“COVID-19 has shown us that health is an economic and security issue, we need to see it that way,” he said.

Abayomi said that financial barriers to health should be removed through a robust and effective health insurance system.

He stressed that health and preparedness investment should be prioritised, even during a recession.

Abayomi said the cost of inaction outweighs cost of action and preparedness, adding that it would save lives, resources and build resilience in the health sector.

Earlier, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, the Wife of Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos State, said that health practitioners and stakeholders should be more proactive in raising their voices to address some of the challenges confronting the sector.

Sanwo-Olu said there was need for the government to work on the nation’s health emergency system, adding that the country should not wait for another pandemic before activating it.

According to her, there is a need to have a health bank targeted at meeting the financing and investment needs of the health sector.

The governor’s wife said that such would assist to reverse the challenge of medical tourism.

She advised the citizens to continue to be vigilant and adhere to all safety precautions that would assist the country to eliminate COVID-19.

Also, Prof. Innocent Ujah, President of NMA, said that marking and celebrating the 2020 Physicians’ Week calls for sober reflection, considering the current realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ujah said that the attendant consequences of the pandemic led to the death of medical doctors and other healthcare workers, while performing their patriotic and professional duties.

“It should also be stated that other Nigerians lost their lives to the dreaded virus,” he said.

The NMA president said the discordant that ensued lapses between the Federal and State Governments’ responses coordination for COVID-19 should be avoided in the future to yield better outcomes.

According to him, the COVID-19 pandemic must jolt the government to adequately invest in the healthcare system.

“This calls for more strategic and focussed planning and actions as no meaningful development can take place in a society where disease and deaths are ravaging the potential leaders and the hopes of our tomorrow.

“We must reverse this ugly trend very quickly since there is no time to waste any more,” he said.

Ujah commended the Lagos State Government for its dynamism and proactive approach that assisted the country to control the spread of the virus.

He also praised medical doctors and all health professionals for their courage, perseverance, sacrifice and strength exhibited in fighting the COVID-19 disease.

Commenting, Dr Adetunji Adenekan, the NMA Chairman in Lagos, said that the Physicians’ Week was to celebrate the achievements and sacrifices of Nigerian doctors in the last 12 months, especially as it relates to COVID-19 pandemic amidst a weak healthcare system.

Adenekan said that the State Officers Committee of the Lagos NMA had been running an inclusive administration that had fostered unity and restoration of glory to the profession since assumption of office.

“Recently, the zone has taken a stance on a key contemporary matter, the call for police reform and an end to police brutality.

“I wish to note that many healthcare workers, including doctors, have been victims of harassment and brutalisation by unprofessional members of the Nigerian Police Force,” he said.

Adenekan, then appealed to the government to listen to the voices of the citizens and ensure a thorough reform of the nation’s police force.

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