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Health News of Wednesday, 24 August 2022


NHIA, Garki Hospital, WHO partner on how to boost health financing in Nigeria

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Worried about the cost of health care services in Nigeria and particularly the increasing lack of access to prepaid insurance cover by the poor, a team from World Health Organisation (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, recently visited the country and made some recommendations.

To reverse the trend, the global body is exploring how to boost health financing in the country, which budgeted N711.3 billion for the health sector this year, a paltry 4.3 per cent of the national budget, far below the 15 per cent benchmark set by the African Union in the Abuja Declaration.

A fact-finding team from the WHO, last week, visited Garki Hospital, Abuja, and expressed satisfaction with the quality of its services, especially the health insurance scheme.

The team, led by Dr. Joseph Kutzin, Head of Health Financing and Governance from Geneva, Switzerland, had earlier met with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire. They were in Garki Hospital with officials of the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) including its Director General, Dr Mohammed Sambo, to evaluate the success story of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) in Nigeria.

The Senate, last year, passed a Bill making health insurance mandatory for all Nigerians, establishing the NHIA from the NHIS.

The evaluators included the Head of Health Financing, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Juliet Nabyonga, and three technical officers namely Fahdi Dkhimi, Kingsley Addai and Dr. Francis Ukwuije.

They were received by the Medical Director of Garki Hospital, Dr. Adamu Onu, who spoke extensively on the progress the Hospital made since it was taken over by Nisa Premier Hospital on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement in 2007.

Onu disclosed that owing to the reforms carried out since 2016, the hospital presently has 35,555 NHIS clients and 8118 enrollees on the FCT health insurance register even as he bemoaned the fact that many Nigerians still find it hard to access quality health care. He identified areas of improvement for Nigeria’s health insurance scheme as proper documentation of beneficiaries and their records as well as standardisation to streamline areas of insurance coverage.

He said Garki Hospital has been able to cover the gap between quality health care and the people because of the success of the PPP arrangement, which enables the hospital to offer premium health services at an affordable cost.

Since the concession agreement began in 2007, Onu said the hospital has treated more than two million patients, recorded more than 40 open heart surgeries, 26 kidney transplants with over 100 hip and knee joint replacement surgeries, while subsidising In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) services.

“We conduct training in family medicine, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, anaesthesia and assisted reproductive technology as well as post-graduate training across different specialities,” he disclosed.

“Two-thirds of the patients that use this hospital are on health insurance, so out-of-pocket patients are actually a minority and even the NHIS itself has acknowledged that and regarded us as a model hospital for NHIS in the whole of this country. We have become so efficient that an NHIS or health insurance patient can see three specialists in one day. Here you can see the cardiologist, the neurologist and endocrinologist all in one day,” Onu said.

Kutzin said the team came to Nigeria to explore ways of assisting in health financing with a view to promoting universal health care so that the poor and indigent can get equal access. He also expressed satisfaction with the feat attained by Garki Hospital and asked questions on data management to improve services and turn-around periods.

Garki Hospital has grown to be a hospital of choice in the FCT and beyond since it embraced the PPP model. It is a multi-speciality hospital, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities backed by a wide range of expertise and skilled personnel providing specialized and general care, in-patient and outpatient services. It has been a shining example of a successful public-private partnership in health.

Director General, NHIA, Prof. Sambo, on an earlier visit to the hospital, praised the PPP model, which he said has manifested inefficient management of human and material resources. He promised to partner with the hospital on its cost-effective method for delivering healthcare services.

Indeed, Onu used that opportunity to identify areas of improvement for Nigeria’s health insurance scheme as proper documentation of beneficiaries and their records as well as standardisation to streamline areas of insurance coverage.

The hospital was accredited by the NHIS in 2008. It currently has one of the largest numbers of NHIS enrollees in the FCT and is the only PPP that accepts secondary referrals from other facilities. The hospital is also the only facility that carries out specialized surgery under the NHIS scheme.

Onu said the scheme is working smoothly because the hospital ensures an open and transparent billing system and ensures that no patient waits for more than 30 minutes before seeing a doctor, thanks to its electronic medical record application in all facets of healthcare.

The Federal Government recently announced its expansion of the health insurance system with the launch of a new health insurance package, the Group Individual and Family Social Health Insurance Programme (GIFSHIP).

Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the new insurance product is the outcome of wide-ranging and far-reaching reforms within NHIS to significantly increase the fiscal space for healthcare services.

He explained that the new product, expectedly, would address the challenges and barriers encountered during the implementation of other insurance packages both by the beneficiaries and operators.

“It will also eliminate known difficulties, as it creates additional value by expanding and upgrading other insurance packages for better reach, service quality and user experience,” the Minister promised.

He said the major objective of GIFSHIP is to rapidly expand the scope of healthcare coverage in an urgent quest to attain Universal Health Coverage and leave no one behind.

He said: “GIFSHIP offers Nigerians the opportunity to participate and benefit from the health insurance system. There is an opportunity for affordable individual enrolment, family unit or a group of people. Any of the enrolments can also be sponsored by well-meaning individuals, Trusts, or organisations.”

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