Interview: Isaac Folorunso Adewole
What are the government’s plans for primary health care centres (PHCs) in Nigeria?
ISAAC FOLORUNSO ADEWOLE: Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria, has made the provision of qualitative basic essential health services to Nigerians one of the cardinal deliverables of his administration.
To this end, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMH) has established an ambitious health policy, which includes developing a framework for the attainment of universal health coverage, with PHCs as the fulcrum. This administration is committed to revitalising at least 10,000 PHCs across the country with an equitable spread of one centre per ward. This should happen within the next two years.
The revitalisation programme will cover the renovation of existing structures, the deployment of human resources and the supply of equipment, drugs and consumables. It will also focus on data collection, which will objectively shape our national policy. Our plan is to have every Nigerian registered at their nearest PHCs. We are confident that investing in these facilities will take care of about 80% of the health needs of Nigeria’s citizens, and we envisage that close to 100m people will be able to access affordable care without having to make a direct payment at the point of care. In addition, the programme will boost employment, reduce poverty and provide access to safe water supplies.
What effect has the Ebola crisis had on broader health practices in Nigeria?
ADEWOLE: Nigeria’s response to the outbreak of Ebola has been described as a classic epidemiologic intervention. The country mobilised all available resources to curtail the spread of the unfortunate outbreak. The resilience of our health system was tested, and I am proud of the response made by all levels of government, as well as the cooperation of partners and citizens to jointly stop the infection.
The government has gained valuable knowledge from the experience and has applied certain lessons to improve health practices in Nigeria. For example, the federal government is investing in the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) by improving the capacity of its staff and ordering modern equipment to diagnose infectious diseases. The FMH is also planning to upgrade existing emergency operations centres (EOCs), which are being used for polio surveillance in the country. Our intention is to have at least one EOC in each region of the country serving as a public health observatory for disease surveillance.
The country is currently training a large number of field epidemiologists through the Nigeria Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme, domiciled at NCDC and operated by the University of Ibadan and the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I strongly believe that this will better position the country for any future health emergency response.
How is the government incorporating technology into health care provision and insurance?
ADEWOLE: E-health is an emerging programme in Nigeria, and the FMH has developed a strategic framework that is due for dissemination. This policy document suggests ways to ensure that the Nigerian health system harnesses the full potential of existing technology. The country explored telemedicine services in some tertiary health facilities but their benefits are yet to be fully realised.
I believe that incorporating technology in our health care system will help to promote efficiency and, ultimately, improve the quality of care provided. For instance, medical records, solar powered equipment and telemedicine, amongst others, are key technological approaches that this government is exploring, with the hope of improving the delivery of our plans for universal health coverage. We have established an ICT department to drive this agenda.
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