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NHIS: Sambo and mandate for health coverage

NHIS Boss Prof. Mohammed Sambo
NHIS Boss Prof. Mohammed Sambo

When the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), an implementing and regulatory agency, was launched in 2005 to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising cost of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care, no one ever envisaged that the scheme will be making motion without movement.

It is sad to say almost a decade and a half after it’s establishment, less than 5 per cent of the nation’s population has been covered by the health scheme. Information by the National Health Account reveal that government health expenditure as a share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is 0.59 per cent, government health expenditure as a percentage of total government expenditure is 5.3 per cent while out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure as a percentage of total health expenditure is 72.3 per cent. There has been limited progress in addressing the health financing challenge Nigeria faces, and the implementation of NHIS since inception does little to inspire hope.

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An article written by Bolaji Samson Aregbeshola, a public health researcher captures this aptly:” In 2017, a spotlight was put on the activities of the NHIS, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and health care providers (HCPs) in Nigeria, due to the numerous petitions filed by NHIS enrolees with regards to the unsatisfactory health care services provided to them and the inhumane treatment meted out to NHIS patients at hospitals by health workers. This revealed that the management of funds for health care had been fraught with corruption and a lack of transparency and accountability

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“Despite the disbursement of N411 billion to HMOs by the NHIS since 2005, HMOs were indebted to HCPs across Nigeria to the tune of N2.276 billion, and NHIS enrolees continue to be at the receiving end of this massive corruption with lack of improvements in their health status. Enrolees who together with their employers make these financial contributions are unsatisfied with the services they receive, and in fact most NHIS enrolees complain that they are treated badly at hospitals by health workers because of the indebtedness of HMOs to hospitals.”

Some observers blame the leadership that have held sway previously at the agency, though we have not met appreciable level in line with the mandate of agency, credits however must be accorded to some of the past bosses who have made some landmarks while the held sway.

The appointment of Prof Mohammed Sambo by President Muhammadu Buhari as the sixth substantive Head of Nigeria’s Health Insurance regulator gladdens the hearts of many Nigerians who have shown concerns over the crisis and controversies that engulfed the scheme in recent times. Many say, now, that the agency has a man of gold standard as its helmsman.

Mohammed Sambo, is a professor of Community Medicine and Epidemiology, at the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU). He was formerly the Head of Department of Community Medicine, at the Ahmadu Bello University, (ABU). Before his appointment, Sambo was the Provost of the College of Medicine at the Kaduna State University. Sambo earlier had a stint with the Scheme some years ago before he left for academic pursuit.

As an expert epidemiologist and renowned researcher, Sambo has written over 100 publications with citation in both local and international journals. His research works focus on Healthcare Financing, Funding Medical Insurance and Hand Hygiene.

To a few, Sambo may appear soft-spoken, but certainly not as a sign of weakness. And to many that have worked or interacted with him closely, know without any doubt that the new NHIS boss is a target oriented, a team player and result driven personality, who is willing, able and ready to walk the talk rather than talking without a walk. Certainly, he will bring to bear his professional experience and expertise to steer the affairs of the scheme.

On resumption, Sambo has unequivocally declared his desire and willingness to strategically work with all key players to reposition the scheme to its rightful place towards improving the nation’s healthcare insurance system.

He had since unveiled a 3-point agenda of restoring value system that will transform NHIS into a credible result-driven organization, engendering transparency and accountability in the entire operation of the scheme and accelerating the drive towards achieving access to quality healthcare for all Nigerians, the NHIS is poised to achieve its goal in record time.

Sambo, is a man rightly familiar with the terrain, he knows all the ‘bends and the potholes’. Sambo knows all the essential landmarks and rightfully determined to navigate through. While we wish Sambo well as he takes the lead at NHIS, we also await the implementation of the 3-point agenda to actualize the mandate of the scheme towards increased health coverage in Nigeria.

Maiyaki wrote from Abuja, ahmedmaiyaki@gmail. com

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