By Asmau Ahmad with agency report
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said it will kick against any political party or presidential flag-bearer in the forthcoming 2023 presidential election that is not ready to allocate 15 per cent of the national budget to the health sector.
The newly President of the association, Dr Uche Ojinmah said the presidential flag-bearers must be ready to increase the budgetary allocation to health by implementing the 2001 Abuja Declaration, insisting that anything short of 15 per cent budgetary allocation to health is unacceptable.
The NMA leader stated this in an exclusive interview with PUNCH HealthWise.
He noted that the association is waiting for a detailed and progressive health sector agenda in the manifesto of the presidential flag-bearers.
On April 25, 2001 heads of state and governments of African countries met in Abuja, the Nigeria capital, and agreed to increase health spending to 15 per cent of their national budgets. This historic declaration by the African leaders became known as the Abuja declaration.
Nigeria has, however, failed in its Abuja Declaration commitment and has for years failed to ensure that 15 per cent of its annual budgetary allocation goes to the health sector, according to the NMA.
The NMA president who is a consultant dermatologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Enugu, stressed that poor budgetary allocation to health was no longer acceptable, lamenting that since 2001 when the declaration was made, Nigeria has not gone beyond six pe rcent in its national health budget.
“The Nigerian Medical Association is waiting for the manifesto of every presidential flag-bearer of the political parties for the 2023 polls to see what they have for the health sector.
“But we shall kick against any party or candidate that does not have a progressive manifesto for the health sector. They must improve budgetary allocation to the health sector.
“We want a detailed health sector agenda in their manifesto. We expect the candidates to tell us that they must improve the budgetary allocation to the health sector.
“Anything below the Abuja declaration of 15 per cent is not acceptable to us. The whole African heads of state gathered in Nigeria in 2001 and agreed that they will allocate 15 per cent of their annual budget to the health sector. And till today, Nigeria has not gone beyond six per cent. This is not acceptable,” Dr Ojinmah said
The NMA boss also said the presidential flag-bearers must also show in their manifesto how to tackle the brain drain in the sector and improve the remuneration of health workers.
“So, we want the candidates to know that they must get ready to give us programmes that would help reverse brain drain.
“They must improve the remuneration of all healthcare workers and not just for doctors because the brain drain is not only with doctors.
“The nurses are also affected. They are leaving in droves. The few of us that are left here are suffering.
“Doctor to patient ratio in Nigeria is also one to 6,000 while the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation is one to 600. You can see the margin.
“We want those that will improve the working condition of health workers and make facilities and equipment available for them to work with,” Dr Ojinmah said.
Recall that the NMA in April revealed that the country has a deficit of 315,426 medical doctors to cater to the health needs of its 215, 266, 984 population.
Using the latest United Nations population data for Nigeria, which is pegged at 215,063,351, the NMA revealed that there are 43,013 doctors available to attend to all Nigerians, leaving a huge deficit of 315,426 medical doctors.
The NMA attributed the deficit to a massive brain drain, adding that between 2016 to 2018, not less than 9,000 doctors left Nigeria for better work environments, safety, and security in three countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America.