Against the backdrop of recent disclosure by the Federal Government's plan to establish about ten thousand primary healthcare centres spread across the 774 local government areas in the country, a healthcare expert has lauded the move as a step in the right direction.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, the Deputy General Manager, Northern Operations for Healthcare International Limited (HCL), a Health Maintenance Organisation (HMO) and one of the forerunners in the nation's health insurance industry, Dr. Simbo Okubule, explained that "this development became necessary to enable the national hospitals play roles expected of them as secondary and tertiary providers, rather than the current situation where they are besieged by patients with minor cases like headache, fever, and cough."
According to her, "government needs to decongest the national hospitals of patients with primary health cases in order to face secondary and tertiary cases. However, it is important to make sure that these healthcare centres are standardized and private investors are encouraged to step in."
In her submission, Okubule believed that "the resolution of the knotty issues in the healthcare delivery system as promised by the Buhari's administration, is critical to the speedy recovery and overall growth of the nation's economy, which will put an end to the huge revenues being frittered away on overseas treatments by Nigerians."
She noted that the "country has all it takes to get it right. Therefore, government must not lose focus to equip our hospitals and train more people to make the system work better. Several highly skilled doctors in American hospitals are Nigerians."
She advised that "despite Federal Government's good intentions on healthcare delivery in the country, it must go a step further by making health insurance coverage compulsory nationwide. The effort of Lagos State who has made the scheme mandatory is commendable and should be emulated by others. Health insurance is a basic thing that people need just like shelter, education, power, and good roads."
To her, the challenges faced in the course of doing business in the northern region with predominantly Muslim communities, especially from the point view of culture, religion, and level of literacy, were parts of what prepared the company for the present reality.
She recalled: "Before the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) took off in 2005, HCL has started selling its own health plans to mainly companies with obligations to their staff and some that subscribed to it as evidence of insurance to obtain government contracts. It was tough initially because getting individuals to buy health insurance was almost impossible, more so, the word 'insurance' scared a lot of people based on previous unpleasant experience from insurance companies.
"We started enlightening the people that our product was not purely insurance but more of managed care. However, the pioneer Director General of NHIS, who was also a Muslim, made our job easier by bringing together all the Imams and village heads to explain to them the real objective and benefits of the scheme. From thereon, things started getting better with more awareness campaigns and sensitization... "