Big boost for health as Senate set to pass vital bills

By Reginald Uhegbu and Tony Odey

Healthcare delivery system in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is on the threshold of a major turnaround as the 8th Senate has expressed its determination and desire to pass two major bills critical to the improvement of health of FCT residents before the expiration of its tenure.

Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Health Care and Communicable Diseases, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, stated this at a public hearing on bills to provide for ‘Establishment of FCT Health Insurance Agency to institute the FCT Health Insurance Scheme for all residents of the Territory and for other related matters’ and a bill for an Act to provide for the ‘Establishment of FCT Primary Health Care Board and for other related matters’.

Senator Ohuabunwa added that the massive attendance of the Public Hearing by FCT residents and stakeholders is an indication that the bills are popular, assuring that Senate will work assiduously to pass it in order for residents to benefit from basic healthcare funds.

Senator Ohuabunwa stressed that the 8th Senate is health- friendly as both the Senate President and Chairman of Health Committee are health professionals while he (Ohuabunwa) is a health supporter.

Earlier on, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Olanrewaju Tejuosho, had said that the bills will ensure effective implementation of health policy in FCT.

Senator Tejuosho also gave reasons while health insurance scheme has not worked in Nigeria, saying these include the fact that the scheme not been made mandatory, non-subsidizing of cost for those who cannot afford it, as well as non-definition of roles of states.

He then suggested that these loopholes be plugged for effective implementation of the policy.

Sponsor of the bill and Senator representing FCT, Philip Aduda, also assured of speedy passage of the bill in order to enable FCT draw from the 2019 budget.

On its part, the FCT Administration (FCTA) expressed readiness to make adequate provision to support the Health Insurance Agency, when passed.

Minister of FCT, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, who was represented by Permanent Secretary, FCT, Sir Chinyeaka Ohaa, who disclosed this, however, made some observations and corrections on the content of the bills.

Stakeholders like traditional rulers, World Bank, global non-governmental body HP Plus, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Association of Medical Directors (AMD), local NGO People with Disability, all made presentations at the Public Hearing and spoke in favour of the bills.

Abuja Digest Weekly gathered that, when passed, the bills will impact positively on the health of residents as they will provide for the allocation of two per cent of Consolidated Revenue accrued to FCT and Area Councils for primary health care and health insurance and emergency infrastructure to improve service delivery.

This should then translate to improve infrastructural facilities at Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities in FCT, reduction of distance to access quality health service, as well as improvement of accessibility and affordability of quality services.

It will be recalled that Kano State has taken the lead by allocating five per cent of her Consolidated Revenue to primary health and health insurance scheme.