By Ifeanyi Onuba |
The quality of health care in any country is a vital component of the standard of living. Indeed, it can be argued that healthcare is the most significant component of meaningful development among the indicators of the quality of life.
No wonder the popular saying that “Health is wealth” has remained evergreen. Inasmuch as life is the greatest gift of God to man, the provision of health care facilities is needed in superfluity in order to sustain the existence of life on Earth.
Unfortunately, in today’s Nigeria, the provision of health care facilities seems to be at low ebb as many Nigerians remain vulnerably exposed to the danger of untimely and preventable deaths. This situation accounts for the huge spending on medical tourism by citizens, which by some reports was in excess of $1bn annually.
With a projected population of 263 million by 2030, the current slow pace of investments in health care infrastructure, poor condition of existing infrastructure, under-funding and mismanagement of existing facilities, inadequate equipment, under-training of health workers and deficiencies in domestic pharmaceutical industry have indeed called for an emergency response.
Concerned by these developments and in alignment with government’s broader agenda to reverse the trend of medical tourism, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) had prioritized the health sector as one of its six strategic investment areas of focus.
This is because as a manager of the Future Generations Fund, which is a component of the Sovereign Wealth Fund, one cannot talk about the future generation without being healthy or alive. This is one of the reasons why the NSIA is investing in the health care sector as a strategic and important area for Nigeria.
There is no doubt that the health sector has suffered some years of neglect and as such, equipment that are needed in certain facilities are either inadequate or obsolete or both.
With the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria in February last year, which has infected more than 131,918 people and killed over 1,607 according to statistics from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), it has become compelling to boost the level of investment in the health sector.
While the past five years have witnessed remarkable private and public sector efforts to develop Nigeria’s health care sector, some experts are of the view that the impact of these efforts on reducing the challenges in the health sector is still marginal.
However, it is clear that after decades of sub-optimal performance, and near lack of seriousness, there is noticeable momentum by stakeholders under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to chart a new and more progressive path forward.
Now, more than ever before, there is a growing need to impact the quality of lives of Nigerians, particularly the poor and vulnerable through a decent health care system and this is a huge step towards providing necessary comfort for the citizens.
While the COVID-19 pandemic had affected many people and the economy, it has also provided an opportunity to reposition the health care sector for effective service delivery.
Recently, the Board of the NSIA formally handed over 126 units of Patient Monitors and 63 units of Oxygen Concentrators to 21 Healthcare Institutions across the six geopolitical zones of the country as part of the Authority’s COVID-19 relief programme.
The inauguration of the project was done by the Secretary to the Federal Government, Mr. Boss Mustapha; accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning Mrs. Zainab Ahmed; the Minister of Health Dr Osagie Enahire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.
The donation of the health equipment is part of measures aimed at supporting the containment of the recent surge in the reported cases of Covid-19 infections in Nigeria and the significant impact this development may have on the economy.
No doubt, the donation of the medical equipment is expected to augment the Federal Government’s ongoing effort to enhance clinical care available to COVID-19 patients and add to the stock of critical medical equipment needed in hospitals across the country.
It is also expected that this modest contribution will go a long way towards supporting the management of COVID-19 cases and enhancing the efforts of the frontline responders that are currently providing care and treatment to people already infected with the virus. The equipment also constitutes a commitment of resources which NSIA expects will be crucial for the long-term sustainability of domestic healthcare centres and their treatments programs.
It is a well-known fact that many of these centres struggled with patient care at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and with the surge being experienced under the second wave, they may struggle even more if the response to the pandemic is not backed up with the much needed healthcare facilities.
Even though it had been established that the number of ventilators in the country was inadequate to meet the domestic requirement, an even more daunting challenge was experienced with respect to ICU and Regular monitors as well as Oxygen Concentrators which are all required to treat early stages of many respiratory ailments and thereby give patients a fighting chance. In donating the healthcare facilities, the NSIA’s objective is to bridge this gap.
While the decision to donate the equipment to these target institutions is part of NSIA’s broader COVID-19 intervention to augment government’s ongoing efforts, the donation represent a more strategic approach to enhance patients care by adding to the stock of critical medical equipment needed nationwide.
Through this gesture, the Authority has been able to demonstrate that investment in healthcare is investment in the economy as it guarantees greater returns.
The Authority also expects that the supply of these equipments will help in alleviating the inventory gaps in these hospitals. With the nation’s economy still in recovery, there is the need to add to this stock of critical medical equipment required for the containment of the virus in Nigeria.
Therefore, the supply of oxygen concentrators and patient monitors is expected to boost Government’s efforts to provide an efficient and effective healthcare response for those affected by the virus.
The donation of the equipment is also coming about five months after the NSIA had invested over $20m in establishing three ultramodern healthcare centres of excellence in the country. Recently, up to $5.5m was invested in the establishment of the ultra-modern medical diagnostic centre which is located within the premises of the Federal Medical Centre Umuahia, Abia state.
Prior to this, a diagnostic centre had been established in Kano at the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital (AKTH) and a Cancer treatment centre was also set up within the premises of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH).
NSIA’s investment strategy in the healthcare sector is to partner with both public and private institutions to create Centres of Excellence in the healthcare delivery in Nigeria, focusing on diagnostics, tertiary healthcare targeting non-communicable diseases and medical and pharmaceutical manufacturing.
The NSIA had funded the construction of its diagnostic centres, including the acquisition and installation of modern laboratory and radiology equipment which will aid the provision of comprehensive diagnostics for the delivery of the highest quality of services.
The investment is providing improved diagnostic service delivery, reducing waiting times for high quality diagnostic services at and improving affordability of high-quality tests to patients.
It will also help to provide high quality training opportunities for local professionals.
With the successes recorded by the NSIA’s intervention in the health sector, it has become imperative for government at all levels to build a sustainable relationship with the Authority to strengthen health care facilities and have an innovative way to funding health care in Nigeria.
– Onuba is a public affairs commentator based in Abuja