How Nigeria can reposition healthcare ecosystem – Experts Pamela Ajayi and Njide Ndili as president/vice president

Nigeria can reposition and rebuild its healthcare ecosystem if the country strengthens its health information system and enhances the use of evidence-linked planning for resource allocation and utilization, experts in the country’s healthcare sector have said.

The experts who spoke at the Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) 2023 Annual Conference themed ‘Building the Healthcare of our future’ said collaboration and collective responsibility are needed to create a sustainable and inclusive healthcare ecosystem in Nigeria.

Pamela Ajayi, president of HFN, highlighted the need to reposition the healthcare ecosystem in Nigeria.

“We need improvements to the health information system, regular and sustainable population and health-facility-based surveys, and a functioning vital statistics and civil registration system,” Ajayi said.

“We also need to strengthen the use of evidence-linked planning for resource allocation and utilization.”

Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, in his speech called for collaboration among various government agencies and the private sector for sustainable and inclusive healthcare in Nigeria.

The minister lauded the efforts undertaken by HFN and expressed his gratitude to the private sector for its support and the partnership it has developed with the public sector.

Speaking on the difficulties faced in importing medical items such as HS (harmonised system) codes, the minister said: “You can create a group that will be able to work with Customs to identify what items are coming in and what tariff should be on it continuously.”

“We want to support not only the public sector but the private sector as well and our goal is to have universal health coverage, and quality health services,” Ehanire said while calling on players to collaborate with the Nigerian Customs to harmonize tariffs on imported medical equipment.

During the conference, new executive committee members were elected to lead the affairs of the healthcare advocacy group for the next two years, ending in October 2024. Pamela Ajayi and Njide Ndili, the previous president and vice-president of HFN respectively, were re-elected, president and vice-president respectively.

Njide Ndili, the newly re-elected vice president who is also the country director of PharmAccess Foundation, urged everyone to utilize the wide array of insightful segments that the conference had to offer.

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“The conference comes amid several challenges facing the healthcare ecosystem in Nigeria, including funding for healthcare, monetary policy tightening and volatility, gaps in fiscal policy and poor implementation, and dwindling human resources for health, with increasing brain-drain throughout the value chain and ecosystem.”

Akin Abayomi, the Commissioner of Health for Lagos state, addressed this challenge during the Diaspora Dialogue Session, saying that multiple forces drive brain drain, many of which are beyond the control of the health sector.

“Since COVID-19, the global healthcare talent pool has shrunk and advanced countries are attracting health workers to fill their gaps,” he said.

“People have always migrated to regions that promised them a better life,” he said. “According to the World Bank, funds remitted by Nigerians in the diaspora hit $65bn between 2018 and 2020. This is compensating for the low tax base in Nigeria.”

“Many people here are members of the Japada alumni, so the idea is not to eliminate brain drain but to make sure it does not cripple us,” Abayomi said. “People who work abroad and gain rare skills will eventually come back when living conditions are better.”

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