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General News of Sunday, 17 October 2021

Source: punchng.com

Health sector gulps N2.5tn in six years

Health workers Health workers

Stakeholders in the health sector on Saturday said poor funding, misappropriation of resources and the appointment of unseasoned administrators in the health sector have made it difficult for the country to address the current challenges bedevilling the sector.

This is as an analysis by SUNDAY PUNCH revealed that the Federal Ministry of Health received the sum of N2.55tn in the last six years, from 2016 to 2021.

Despite the importance of the sector in the nation’s development, the Federal Government continues to allocate small portions of the country’s budget to the sector against the Abuja Declaration of 2001 which urged leaders of the African Union member-countries to allocate 15 to 20 per cent of their annual budgets to health.

An analysis of the percentage of Nigeria’s health budget from the period under review, however, revealed that the country had not significantly improved on the sector. In 2016, the Federal Government had a budget of N6.06tn, out of which it earmarked N550bn to the health sector, representing 4.1 per cent of the budget. 

In 2017, the total national budget was N7.4tn, while the health sector got N304.1bn, representing 4.0 per cent.

In 2018, there was a further decline in the percentage of the budget allocated to health as the sector got N356.5bn out of a total budget of N9.1tn.In 2019, 2020 and 2021, the sector got N372.7bn (4.18 per cent), N414.5bn (4.16 per cent) and N549.8bn (7.01 per cent) respectively.

Out of this year’s budget of N13.6tn, the sum of N380bn and N134bn were earmarked as recurrent and capital expenditures in the health sector, respectively.

This, according to experts, has continued to lead to incessant industrial actions by health workers, deplorable healthcare facilities and the mass exodus of health professionals.

Health workers down tools for 192 days under BuhariOver the last six years, the country has continued to witness incessant industrial actions by health workers and physicians across the country.

This is as Nigeria continues to lose most of its health workers to other countries.

While the Nigerian Medical Association has not embarked on industrial actions in the past 20 years, one of its affiliates, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, has continued to agitate for better working conditions.

In 2016, for instance, NARD, under the leadership of its former national president, Dr Muhammad Askira, embarked on an 18-day strike.

Similarly, the Joint Health Workers Union comprising other health workers in the sector, excluding doctors, embarked on a 20-day strike.

In 2017, NARD again went on strike under the leadership of Dr John Onyebueze, from September 4, 2017, to September 17, 2017.

Similarly, JOHESU embarked on a 10-day strike three days after NARD called off its strike; the action which commenced on September 20, 2017, was suspended on October 1, 2017.

In 2018, JOHESU embarked on a 44-day strike, from April 17, 2018, to May 31, 2018. In 2020, after a long break, JOHESU and NARD, during the height of the pandemic, embarked on different strike actions.

NARD embarked on a one-week nationwide strike on June 15, 2020, over the disengagement of 26 resident doctors at the Jos University Teaching Hospital, salary cuts and issues surrounding the medical residency training fund but the strike was called off on June 22, 2020.

Similarly, JOHESU embarked on a seven-day warning strike from September 13, 2020, to September 20, 2020. This year, NARD has embarked on industrial action twice; in April, NARD downed tools on April 1, 2021, though the strike was suspended after nine days.

On July 31, NARD, under the leadership of Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, announced the commencement of an indefinite strike that lasted for 64 days, making it the longest industrial action embarked on in the history of the association.

But the spokesperson for the Joint Health Workers Union, Olumide Akintayo, in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, said, “The problem of the health sector is not only about funding. Even if we have the fund, who are the people managing it, what are their antecedents and pedigree in managing both human and material resources? These are germane things to look at.

“A lot is wrong with our health care system from the malfunctioning primary health care development agency to a dysfunctional National Health Insurance Scheme because the government has insisted they should be managed by physicians who have no experience in administration management.”

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