During the campaigns that brought the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki into office, one of his cardinal promises was to improve healthcare delivery in the state. His plan was to focus on primary health care across the 192 wards of the state. His permutation was that the people at the grassroots would better be reached with an effective healthcare system when the primary health institutions are fully equipped and made functional.
Exact words of the campaign promise to Edo people on health: “Healthcare infrastructure will receive a boost by focusing government financing at the Primary Healthcare level across the state and, where there is the business case, a mix of public and private capital at the tertiary levels;
“Visual and dental health will be integrated into the healthcare policy and master plan.”
As a first step to realising his campaign promises to Edo people shortly after he was sworn-in, the Governor went to the drawing board by organising a major stakeholders workshop for the health sector in the state. The workshop was chaired by the Honorable Minister of health for state and a son of Edo, Dr. Osagie Ehanire. The workshop was attended by who is who in the health sector and it was used to articulate a clear blue print to drive government policies and programmes.
Since then, the administration has had to embark on a number of reforms to turn the State health sector around for the good and prosperity of all citizens of the state. Methinks Obaseki is fired by the obvious fact that hospitals and health centers in the country have assumed deplorable and worrisome degeneration, lacking in equipment and basic tools of the trade to give citizens good and efficient healthcare delivery.
For government to aggressively tackle the numerous challenges faced by ordinary citizens on a daily basis in the health sector, it was clear that the reforms set out in government agenda must ensure a clean break from the past where citizens unrealistically expect the government to fund every aspect of healthcare industry. That explains why Obaseki said his Government will spend the bulk of its healthcare budget in strengthening the primary healthcare system in the state while expecting citizens and other stakeholders to play their expected roles. This is where the issue of health insurance comes to fore.
To take the plan further, only last week, the Governor took yet another bold step by inaugurating a Committee for the establishment of Edo State Health Insurance Scheme (EDHIS) which, according to him “will build a world class scheme that would be the envy and the pride of not only Edo people or Nigeria but that of the African Continent as a whole.”
The beauty of their task is that members of the Committee are drawn from a wide spectrum of the society led by a Professor of Medicine and World Health Organization (WHO) consultant Prof. Danesi Mustapha. Obaseki said the inauguration of the committee is another key plank in the reform of the health sector in the state, assuring that one of the critical elements for his administration is to ensure universal coverage for the scheme.
Interestingly too, Edo people were further encouraged by the kind words of the governor that his administration is determined to create a healthcare industry that will be the envy of all in the country as the principle focus is to get healthcare to the mass of the citizens of the state. This is what purposeful leadership is all about. The governor is clearly focused and knows what citizens need most direly.
When the committee swings into full action, a health insurance scheme will be put in place for every citizen of the state in a way that healthcare facilities and services would be accessible to all and at the same time, affordable. Obviously, the scheme will assemble resources together from both the formal and informal sector to complement what government and the private sector are doing to fund provision of healthcare in the state on a sustainable basis.
Assuredly, the plan is to address the health need of everybody. The committee should swing into action as has been directed in their terms of reference to take a closer look at the contributory health insurance document that will mid-wife the Edo State insurance scheme. It is also good that the committee will serve as the regulatory and advisory body to implement and ensure effective administration of the proposed state health insurance scheme. This will ensure that the theory of change envisaged by government is realised.
It is on their shoulders as well to carry out stakeholders meetings, possibly hold Town Hall Meetings to carry citizens along. They should ensure that in line with government’s desire the health care policy and programme is given human face.
The committee should ensure that whatever they bring forth for government final consideration meets international best practice. The plan should also ensure that all workers and pensioners are covered by the insurance plan. The proposed Edo Health Insurance Scheme should outshine the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and must be prudently managed in a way and manner that no leadership is able to loot the resources as is currently happening in NHIS.
Lastly, the committee should reach out to the labour unions as well as the State and National Pension Commission (PENCOM), on the arrangement in the offing.
Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State.