By Ismaila Chafe, Abuja.
The Federal Government has disbursed N100 billion to indigenous pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare investors as loans, to expand their capital base, boost local production of medicines and medical consumables.
President Muhammadu Buhari announced this when he received the new executive members of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) in the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.
He said that the loan was offered through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s support to the private pharmaceutical sector.
According to him, the Health Sector Reform Committee, chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, is currently exploring models for revitalizing the nation’s healthcare system.
This is in ways that would improve quality of care and the benefit package to care providers, he added.
On brain drain in the health sector, the president said that he has directed the Minister of Health to look into ways of turning “brain drain” to “brain gain”.
According to him, this is by engaging top Nigerian medical experts in the diaspora in knowledge and skills repatriation.
He urged the association and other stakeholders in the health sector to support the Federal Government’s initiatives.
Buhari also urged them to work with the committees set up to fast-track the evolution of a health system that was best suited to meet the needs of Nigerians in the 21st Century.
The president commended the NMA, which is the umbrella body of all medical practitioners in Nigeria, for consistently choosing peaceful resolution of differences on matters relating to the national health system.
He said: ‘‘I commend our medical professionals for their contribution to Nigeria’s exemplary management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the control of malaria, HIV and Tuberculosis, and other feats also achieved by Nigerian doctors in the diaspora.
‘‘Our response to COVID-19 pandemic has been praised internationally and your members are key part of this success.
‘‘I recall that in the last quarter of 2021, the immediate-past NMA executives visited me and presented recommendations for the health sector.”
Buhari said that the recommendations included the review and amendment of NHIS Act; upgrading and equipping existing health institutions as well as loans to fund the acquisition of hospital equipment.
He said that the NMA leaders also recommended the repeal and re-enactment of the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act, while soliciting more funding for the four newly established Universities of Medical Sciences.
‘‘I am pleased to inform you that most of these recommendations have been addressed, while further action is being taken.
“This is to study those involving cross-cutting administrative processes with legal implications,’’ he told the NMA leadership.
The president also used the occasion to congratulate a former President of the NMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, for his emergence as the President-elect of the World Medical Association, the first Nigerian to hold the position.
While wishing him a successful tenure, Buhari expressed the hope that Enabulele would use his position to support improvements in health care delivery in Nigeria and lower-income countries.
He also wished the new executive members of NMA a successful tenure, urging them to earnestly continue to serve as promoters of peace and progress.
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, affirmed that the doctors had been good partners with his ministry.
Ehanire said that they were helping to regulate the health profession as well as promote quality health service delivery.
In his remarks, the President of the NMA, Dr Uche Ojinmah, said the new National Officers Committee (NOC) was elected on May 21, 2022.
He commended the president for his steadfast war against corruption; assent to the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) Act.
Ojinmah said that the Act would improve the health indices of the nation.
He also lauded him for the constitution of the Health Reform Committee, under Vice-President Osinbajo; and the various infrastructural projects embarked upon by the Buhari-administration.
Ojinmah urged the president to ensure full and appropriate implementation of the NHIA Act; while providing “adequate work equipment, conducive work environment and necessary budget support.”
He called for the implementation of the elongation of the retirement age for medical consultants to 70 years and 65 years for non-consultant doctors and other healthcare workers.
Ojinmah also wanted the implementation of the Hazard Allowance, circularized in December 2021 with the arrears; as well as the setting up of a Health Bank.
He as well asked for the representation of the Federal Government at the inauguration of Enabulele in Berlin, Germany, later in the year.