By Ndidi Chukwu
Bauchi State Government has continues its efforts toward improving the health care system, to meet the needs of the state populace since the coming of Governor Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar in May 2015. In this exclusive interview with Health Reporters, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Halima Mukaddas expressed confidence on the governor’s commitments towards equitable and accessible health care delivery in the State.
Bauchi State Government has shown its interest in developing the state’s health care system; it has also allocated adequate funding to this sector in its its 2016 budget, what triggered the Political will of the state governor?
The moment the Governor MA Abubakar came on board he set up different groups to look at all the different sectors in the state, health was identified to be one of the areas with many challenges. This made him to prioritize health, he believes without addressing the health challenges it will mean that the government is not taking care of the burning issues. That was the reason why he engaged some experts to look critically and advice him on what to do. He heed to the advice, one of them is the recommendation for adequate funding for health. The previous government in Bauchi State was allocating 8.5% to health from the total budget of the state, with less than 30% release of the allocated funding. With the critical look at the health challenges and experts’ recommendations the governor earmarked funds to meet the Abuja declaration which expects that African countries allocate not less than 15% of their total budget to health.
The state governor has been able to go beyond the recommended 15, now Bauchi earmarked 16% of its total budget to health. With this, he has been able to demonstrate his commitment to health; he has also flagged and launched the five-point health agenda for Bauchi State. Looking at the agenda you will see that they are the critical health areas that need to be addressed, it is a broad agenda that when fully operationalized more than half of the poor indices in the state’s health sector would be addressed.
As a commissioner, how can you help your governor to achieve these dreams?
As a commissioner, my duty is to ensure critical operationalization of the health agenda, we have a biannual work plan made for 2015 and 2016, and we are in the process of implementing and bringing in high impact interventions in the different areas of health to start addressing the challenges that ridicule the health sector. We are implementing some of the activities in the work plan as review. Currently we are doing a need assessment at all the Primary Health Care Centers in the state.
Bauchi has over 1,000 PHCs, we have to assess the needs for all these facilities, what we have planned to do is to recognize one facility in each ward and rehabilitate that facility to the basic world minimal package to be able to function 24 hours a day. That is what we hope to achieve by the end of this yea. It is targeted at 323 health facilities to cover the 323 wards in Bauchi state. This will also be replicated for the secondary health facilities, and currently we have 27 secondary health facilities to ensure that they are functional and able to receive referrals from the primary health care facilities.
Does the plan include improving the human resource demand?
Yes, that is very critical and we are looking at setting up a framework towards addressing the human resource health needs in the state in terms of the number, the distribution, upgrading, training and retraining to reduce attrition and ensure that they have a safe place to stay. Those are some of the things we are doing currently; we have also made sure that we have fulfilled our own side of the obligation. The governor has already paid the counterpart funding from the tripartite arrangement to the Routine Immunization basket fund from the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the state government, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Dangote Foundation, both are to contribute a certain percentage. Before now the part of the government was not paid in full, now the administration has been able to pay all its funding requirements. I have gotten an approval for 2016 fund, which is our state contribution to the basket funding for Routine Immunization activity.
What is the plan for Bauchi State to self-fund its Routine immunization (RI) activities when the MoU elapses?
The agreement is that by 2018, the government’s contribution will be 100 percent. Currently this year, the government and the partners are contributing 50 per cent each. There is a graduation towards payment into the basket, the government has made plan to ensure that that is done, this is very important because already we have approval for the payment of the 50% for 2016. We have a very robust work plan for Routine Immunization, so the funding requirement for immunization is reduced because we have had many indigenous and international NGOs working with the state on its RI activities, and often we develop the work plan together for instance if the government plans to buy four cold chain equipment. We were able to get 50% assistance of the required fund, the whole money is secured this is one of the beautiful things happening in the state and the spending is becoming better with very good interventions. The funding demand for the basket funding project will be minimized once we have operational PHCs, some of the estimated costs for the things that will be there will no longer be there.
What is your target now on RI?
We are working towards attaining 100% Routine Immunization coverage in Bauchi state. There are 323 wards and 1,000 health facilities, the initial assessment shows that two wards don’t have health facilities and this goes to show that we have to start going back to the basics, first of all construct health facilities and ensure both the new and existing ones become very functional before 2018.
Resistance to vaccine continues to be a burden in the North; your state has its own experience from this. How do you intend to address it?
The issue of Bauchi is very dynamic, there are a lot of new comers in the state, a lot of nomadic people that don’t have adequate information about vaccines, we continue our sensitization activity, we are not relenting on that because we cannot say that sensitization has been done 100 percent, we still have to take the right information to the people. This is a continuous activity and it is a challenge that we continue to address any time we come across such cases. We have neighbouring states that are having internally displaced persons. Bauchi is boarded by Borno, Yobe, and other states and people are migrating into the state, even from Plateau state the little clashes there displaced people and they relocate to Bauchi. We continue to educate them and try as much as we can to increase the service demand in the state to accommodate all.