Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has listed steps to be considered in order to have a robust healthcare infrastructure that is accessible to the majority of Nigerians.
One of such steps is the need to expand the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes. This, he said, could help to reduce the high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians.
A study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) says only four percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance.
Besides food, the CBN governor said healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure. Out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare amount to nearly 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure, he said.
“At such levels of health spending, individuals particularly those in rural communities may be denied access to healthcare services,” he said at the Movie Premiere of “Unmasked”, held in Lagos.
Represented by Osita Nwanisobi, acting director, corporate communications department, the CBN governor said this would also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building the country’s healthcare infrastructure and improve existing welfare package of healthcare workers.
The private sector, he argued, has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices.
“Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians particularly those in our rural communities,” he said.
The second vital step he mentioned was supporting research and development in healthcare. He noted that the CACOVID alliance which reflected significant collaboration between the private and public sector in not only improving access to healthcare services but also in disseminating information to the general public on useful measures that should be taken to curb the spread of the virus, played an instrumental role in aiding Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, leveraging capital from the private sector to complement efforts by the government in supporting innovations in the healthcare space can bring immense benefits to the nation.
“I am aware of some of the work by a research institute; the Africa Centre of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases, in Ede, Osun State, in decoding the genome sequence of the COVID-19 virus 48 hours after the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Nigeria. It is vital that we encourage the works of this and other research centres, by creating an environment where private sector firms can invest in the works of these research institutions,” Emefiele said.
Another aspect he said must also be considered was a key lesson from the COVID-19 pandemic the area of the role of improving access to information on proper health practices.
Emefiele noted that there is a strong linkage between health care and economic growth as evidenced by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigeria and indeed the world.
He noted that the CBN has disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country.
In his remarks, Babajide Sanwo-olu, governor of Lagos State emphasised the need for a change in governance. “Change has to be about all of us,” he said.