Health Care Federation of Nigeria

Over the years, the nation’s health sector has been beleaguered with a plethora of challenges ranging from brain drain of its workforce, dearth of infrastructure and reliable data/market size, lack of confidence in the sector, resulting in an alarming rate of medical tourism and other things which have affected health outcomes and quality of healthcare received.

With the private sector responsible for the provision of 60 percent of healthcare services in Nigeria, according to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) has tasked stakeholders in the private health sector on quality healthcare delivery and synergy in order for Nigeria to take its place of ride on the African continent, and attract investors to the sector.

Speaking during HFN’s inaugural consultative forum, Clare Omatseye, president, HFN, observed that while actions are being taken by both the Federal and some State Ministries of Health to engage the private sector in various fora to create an enabling environment for private healthcare investment, the absence of a robust Public Private Partnerships (PPP) policy to protect private investors in healthcare is an issue that needs to be addressed.

Identifying the critical role that PPP play in healthcare, Omatseye disclosed that to transform the private healthcare sector and build a robust tertiary healthcare system, the private sector investor requires four major pillars.

“They include fiscal and non-fiscal incentives like tax exemptions, duty waivers, access to affordable finance (single digit interest rates via a dedicated health fund), the passing of enabling health legislation before the National Assembly which will create a basic framework for sustainable healthcare delivery and set standards for healthcare services and healthcare providers and develop a robust PPP that protects private investors in healthcare,” Omatseye revealed.

Omatseye added that the HFN is a coalition of Nigerian private health sector stakeholders – an apolitical, non-partisan, non-profit organisation, that seeks to improve the country’s health sector through advocacy.

“We believe that if we speak with one united voice, we can better engage Government and relevant stakeholders to create an environment where access to quality healthcare is available and affordable to all Nigerians. There is the need to regain confidence of Nigeria’s healthcare system and curb the alarming rate of medical tourism to other countries,” Omatseye concluded.

Bemoaning the country’s health sector, stakeholders have called on the Federal Government for an intervention/infrastructural development fund to address possible collapse and effect of poor financial capability on the health of Nigerians.

Sunny Kuku, chairman, EkoCorp Hospital, disclosed that intervention fund will help improve capacity and support infrastructure as interest rates by banks to access loans (about 16 to 26 %) is high and inimical to return on investment (ROI).

Kuku pointed out that with such loan facility spread over a short period of time, it is difficult for repay such loan facility with high interest rate as investment in health is often a long term investment globally.

Kuku noted that as the government has been proactive in meeting the needs of sectors like Agriculture and Aviation with intervention fund, it has not extended the gesture to the health sector.

“If government can intervene in agriculture and aviation sectors, there must be intervention in health because health is wealth. In most developed countries, they give priority to health because an individual can work to generate wealth. The dearth of facilities had been a major problem in the sector. Some medical equipment cost millions of Naira to purchase. Knowing that our country is a developing nation, how much will the patient pay?

“Bear in mind that the health insurance scheme is not mandatory, a situation whereby only about 4 to 6 percent of Nigerians in both public and private sector are covered by the scheme. Services in Nigeria are fee-for-service, even in the public hospitals. This is why government must come with intervention fund to make these facilities available and at affordable service charge,” he said.

A recent analysis by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in its report titled ‘Health in Africa Initiative; Private Health Market Studies in Nigeria’ found a total financing need for the 151 sample Primary Healthcare (PHC) facility to be $97.5 million. Based on this, the estimated bankable need at the national level is about $3 billion.

This appears that pharmacies, pharmaceutical manufacturers, Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs), and medical equipment suppliers are better positioned to access finance from various sources with relatively minimal Development Finance Institutions.

The report however advised that priority should be on priorities support to the other sub-sectors to access financing, I.e. hospitals, clinics, laboratories and nursing homes. For these categories of PHIs only, the bankable financing need is estimated at $1.5 billion, the report concluded.

By Alexander Chiejina. Source: Business Day Online, March 7th 2014


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