By Folasade Akpan
Given his antecedents, some stakeholders in the health sector say they have high expectations of the Coordinating Minister of Health, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, turning around the healthcare delivery in the country.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday, they said that as someone who had headed the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and served as Minister of State for Health in the past, he would deliver on his mandate as health minister.
Dr Joseph Enegela, the Chief Executive Officer of African Diseases Prevention and Research Development Initiative (ADRAP), said that having served in different capacities in the sector in Nigeria and in other global settings, he possesses the necessary experience the sector needs.
“He is not a man to banter words, so I know if he says he will end medical tourism he has thought it out and he knows exactly what to do to achieve that.
“I think his experiences with Primary Health Care (PHC) will also lead him to correct the issues in PHC delivery as we know that is where most Nigerians seek healthcare.
“I will also suggest that he should look into Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model for our major hospitals.
“We have so many Federal Government-run hospitals that are not run efficiently and I think if we go the way of PPP they will become better, though that must run on the backdrop of health insurance,” he said.
Enegela said that it is the rich that seek medical tourism while the very poor cannot even seek healthcare in Nigeria because of catastrophic spending on health.
He added that presently, the nation’s health insurance system has not even met the needs of the minimum percentage of Nigerians who put up for healthcare insurance.
He stressed that as the coordinating minister of health, it means that all other parastatals under the ministry would also have to work with him to make things better than they currently are.
“I believe our health care delivery will change, this is a man who gave up a global position that has far more clout in the global sphere to come and help in solving Nigeria’s healthcare issues.
“I will ask Nigerians to be optimistic with this man and I know we will get there,” he said.
Similarly, Dr Jonathan Dangana, a Lecturer at the Department of Public Health, Babcock University, said that the health sector in Nigeria had been confronted with countless strikes due to certain agreements reached with government on a number of issues.
He also said that poor and terrible data sources, epileptic and less-funded agencies, brain drain and progressively deteriorating infrastructure are some of the issues plaguing the sector.
“As a matter of urgency, it is my opinion that Pate should put forward his health agenda with clear Key Performance Indicators as this will enable Nigerians manage their expectations.
“Furthermore, he should ensure that community health workers have clarity of identity within the health ministry and structure who in the wake of brain drain have become defector clinical skilled manpower.
“A National Health Summit and with no arm of the narrative left behind; let each entity (associations and unions) come forward with their unresolved issues, challenges and proposed solutions while State governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, the academia, both students and faculty be involved in fashioning a way forward.
“He should revisit the existing non-sustainable funding formula of the health sector to harness how we can or should treat health as a business and not just a social responsibility,” he said.
Dangana said that brain drain is a global pandemic, however, some of the drained professionals are drained out for reasons which the solutions lay within the nation’s solvable range; hence the need to be sensitive to those issues and address them head on.
“It is noteworthy that the expectations on Pate are arguably on the same pedestal as the desire to see the currency return to her glory days,” he added.
On his part, Dr Jafar Momoh, a former Chief Medical Director (CMD), National Hospital, Abuja, said that if given the necessary support, Pate should do well in the sector.
Momoh who was also Chairman, Committee of CMDs, said that Pate knows the terrain and should focus on Universal Health Coverage and access to health care especially PHC delivery.
“So, the expectations for him are very high because we have an experienced person coming back to the ministry and we are sure that given the necessary support from both the workers and in the budgeting aspect too; we expect him to do well,” he said.
NAN reports that Pate, a Professor of Public Health, served as Minister of State for Health from July 2011 to July 2013 in the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
He was also the Chief Executive Director of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency from 2008 to 2011.
Pate served as the Global Director for Health, Nutrition and Population and Director of the Global Financing Facility for Women, Children and Adolescents at the World Bank Group.
President Bola Tinubu inaugurated Pate alongside 44 others, as ministers and ministers of state on Monday in Abuja.