• en

Canadian Professor Urges Nigerian Government To Prioritise Primary Healthcare Funding

“For the primary healthcare system to be functional, you need to put funds into it,” says Professor of Medicine Ugwumba.

Professor Rukevwe Ugwumba, a Canadian Based Professor of Medicine and Family Health joined ARISE NEWS in an interview to emphasize the need for the Nigerian government to pay keen attention to the primary health sector of the country.

Ugwumba laid particular emphasis on providing adequate funding to ensure proper healthcare delivery.

“It’s very obvious that financing the health sector is critical for healthcare delivery. In 2014, I’m sure we saw that the consolidated revenue fund where 1% of the entire budget will be put into the healthcare, mainly the basic healthcare provision for all Nigerians and even as of 2018 under the previous president that was passed into law and included in their budget, it was not implemented fully. So, this is where the crux of the matter starts. We know that healthcare starts with the primary healthcare.

“For the primary healthcare system to be functional, you need to put funds into it. That’s the beginning. Funding healthcare properly.”

She also expressed confidence in the capability of the health ministers working under president Tinubu’s administration, to deliver proper healthcare services, saying,“This administration under president Tinubu has some experts in terms of the minister of health and the minister of state for health. They are from diaspora and we have worked in other climes and we see how healthcare can work properly in America, in Canada where I come from, and it’s properly funded.”

She noted a key reason why it is critical for public healthcare to function properly, being that Nigeria has a lot of people with healthcare needs, but with little to no money to care for these needs.

“There are different ways of funding healthcare but there are lots of indigent people in Nigeria that cannot even afford to buy health insurance and so that’s where the public health system comes in. The primary healthcare is really critical to function properly before we talk about secondary and tertiary.”

She added, “In Nigeria for example, if you have money you don’t even know who your GP is. In England where I trained, you must have a GP. You can’t just walk into a hospital except you’re having a heart attack or an emergency. you must get referred from the GP which is the primary healthcare to the specialist and a lot of people bypass that. So when we get that right, if the healthcare system is properly funded and you have competence there, you have confidence in your results. Then you will see that the healthcare in Nigeria begins to work properly.”

The professor also highlighted the achievements of ANPA and its future plans.

“The ANPA which I’m a part of from Canada, we are partnering with the Abia state government to do this huge intervention. Now, over 500,000 U.S. dollars worth of equipment have come in to Abia state and the government has actually partnered up with at least over 100 million naira for local infrastructure. This has been going on since the 4th of April till the 14th and people have been screened for surgeries.”

She further commented, “Government can do a lot of things but it’s not government alone. We have to fund healthcare properly, we have to get the primary health sector to work and we have to get referral systems. So even as we go to ANPA now, we’re going to find a lot of problems which need follow up and that falls back to the state government with their primary health sector to the secondary to the tertiary. It depends on the problem. And of course little things like blood, donation of blood, we don’t have good blood donation drives. I know there are some NGOs that are doing that. Things that you can’t even buy because you need human participation. All those drives should be government funded and initiatives should be there to make sure that those stop gaps are there.

Speaking on maximazing the needs of the nation in terms of priority spending and what should be addressed immediately in public health and primary health care delivery, Ugwumba said, “First of all, you know they put things in budget but not all the things that you put is utilized, so at the end of the year even the 1% was never fully implemented. So we’re talking 5% now across board. So, I still think focusing on the primary health because primary health is not just going to the centre to get treated, it involves education, it involves environmental issues like using mosquito nets and things like that.

“Primary Health care is the bread and butter of medicine and so for me that’s where the money should go. If we can get that right, we’ll save a lot of lives, we’ll actually have a lot of early interventions.

“For example, you found a tumor in the abdomen, you cut it out, you use chemotherapy, tumor is gone. You’re back to normal, you’re under surveillance. But if we didn’t screen you or if you didn’t present early, there’ll be metastasis all over the place, stage five cancer, you’re dead. So prevention is tied to screening, it’s tied to frequent, regular full checkup.”

Addressing how can we rescucitate the primary healthcare sector in Nigeria, she advised, “First of all you build, like a lot of legislators put health centers in their budget but they forget that the building is not going to take care of the people. You’ve got to have staff, you’ve got to have renewable equipment, you have to have supplies. So this is a very intensive system that requires interdisciplinary people to come together to do it. They don’t have to be nurses.There’s something called Community Health Extension Worker they’re called CHEWS. Even such low level training can save a lot of lives.

“The health center needs to be built, but that’s not enough.We need to have the health center there but we need to have them functional. And that’s where every one comes together. The government really has enough money to do everything for everyone but we know it doesn’t work often like that, so individuals come in like ANPA and other NGOs. So, everybody working together with the government is the best approach.”

Melissa Enoch

Follow us on: