The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has stated that the national health bill, which is currently awaiting third reading by the Senate has the potential to reinvent the healthcare industry in Nigeria. Addressing a press conference in Kaduna yesterday to drum support ahead of the Senate public hearing on the bill today, chairman of Kaduna State chapter of NMA, Dr. Aliyu Usman Bappa, said the bill seeks to entrench universal health coverage by providing for exemption from payment for services in public health institutions for certain categories of citizens and strengthening of the national primary healthcare development agency and the national health insurance scheme.
He recalled that the sixth assembly in its twilight passed the bill for an act to provide a framework for the regulation, development and management of a national health system and set standards for rendering health services in the federation and other matters, otherwise called the national health bill, but that following its non assent into law, the 7th Senate re- introduced the bill which has passed its second reading and will today be taken before the court of public opinion.
Speaking further, he maintained that the bill aims at preventing the huge capital spent on flights for official medical trips abroad through streamlining the process of overseas referrals, adding that by making elaborate provision for public private partnership, the national health bill has established a basis for sustainability and vibrancy in the Nigerian health space.
According to him there is a near total lack of coordination and cooperation among the various tiers of healthcare delivery and between the private and public health sectors with the resultant duplications of functions and mal-distribution of resources.
“At the eve of our centenary as a nation, the Nigerian health sector still retains the curious reputation of existing without such fundamental legal roots, accounting in large part to the retrogressive chaos that has come to dominate this vital aspect of our collective march towards prosperity,” he said.
“NMA is not unmindful of the issues being raised against the bill by segments of the Nigerian society and even some health professionals. This is the time to prove that all our toil and occasional bickering are for the sake of the patients since the bill is more about the system and the client than it is about the providers. Posterity shall not forgive us if we fritter away this trans-generational opportunity either through collective indifference or inclination to sentiments,” he stated.