NIGERIA: NMA Calls for Restriction of Foreign Health Travels for Public Officials

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As President Goodluck Jonathan gives his mid-term report today, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), yesterday urged him to institute and enforce a policy restricting travels abroad for foreign trips for medical reason, by political and public office holders.

NMA’s national president, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, said this was especially necessary for medical conditions that could be readily treated in Nigeria.
In a statement to assess the state of health in the country since the return of democracy in the Fourth Republic, Enabulele also suggested the establishment of a hospital development intervention fund to enable Nigerian healthcare professionals set up modern healthcare facilities.

He called for the institution of a constitutional framework/policy for a universal salary structure for health professionals irrespective of their location (rural or urban, local, state or federal) or operational level of care in the health sector.
Although he noted that giant strides had been taken in the sector, he complained that a lot more still needed to be done.

“In the case of medical and dental practitioners, the full implementation of the 2009 approved Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) by all state governments in Nigeria would help to improve the fortunes of Nigeria’s health care sector, especially in the rural communities,” he said.

The NMA boss also suggested the consolidation of the Public-Private Partnership policy in the health sector.
According to him, there was need for a policy of sustained financial releases to the health sector and improved budgetary provision for health of at least 15 per cent of Nigeria’s national budget rather than the six per cent allocation to the health sector in the 2012 budget.

Another improvement the association wants is the rapid expansion of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and commitment to universal health coverage by governments at all levels to substantially reduce “catastrophic health expenditures” by Nigerians.

Enabulele canvassed the strengthening of the primary and secondary levels of care along with the strengthening of the referral system; with the employment of an adequate and appropriate mix of health manpower, with at least one medical officer per local government council.

In addition, he suggested a policy aimed at enthroning professionalism and international best practices in the health sector.

He further listed the group’s demands: “The enthronement of a National Health Act (9), sustained and committed implementation of the National Strategic Health Development Plan by all levels of government.

“Institution of an effective and responsive policy and plan on Health Human Resource (HHR) Development in the health sector; institution of an effective ban on indiscriminate and uncensored advertisement of unsubstantiated claims of herbal and medicinal cures and products on the electronic and print media.

“Institution of stiffer penalties, including life imprisonment for quacks in the public and private healthcare sectors; institution of an effective and proactive strategic plan on utilisation of Health Management Information System and Information Communication Technology (e-Health and m-Health) for appropriate research, decision making and improved access to health care.”

Furthermore, the NMA urged a resolution of conflicting professional regulatory laws/Acts in the health sector; and the development of regulated drug markets by the government, to stop the chaotic drug distribution market in Nigeria.

These are in addition to the transparent implementation of poverty reduction schemes, sustained and committed development of health-related social development sectors such as power, transportation/roads, water, agriculture, security and housing.

The association also wants the current tax policy as it affects healthcare professionals/ healthcare workers reviewed.

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