• Saturday, March 02, 2024
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Nigeria aims for 15% growth in private health sector support

Health unions urge FG to urgently implement sector salary structure, CONHESS

The Nigerian government is seeking to implement policies and strategies that would enable private healthcare providers thrive and contribute over 15 percent to the nation’s healthcare sector.

Tunji Alausa, minister of state for health and social welfare, outlined key interventions focusing on supporting private investments in infrastructure, hospitals, and a robust supply chain network. This, he believed, would improve access to quality healthcare for Nigerians.

Clearing the debt owed by public hospitals to pharmaceutical suppliers is one of the immediate priorities, Alausa announced during the Health Federation of Nigeria’s second annual conference.

Also, the presidential committee on unlocking the healthcare value chain is actively seeking investments in domestic manufacturing of essential medical supplies, including drugs, vaccines, and devices, as well as health logistics and technology.

Emphasising the importance of resource optimisation, Alausa stated; “Pooling and optimising resources to meet the needs of our people is crucial for success. Deepening private sector involvement to supplement and reinforce public healthcare services is becoming increasingly essential.”

He believed that “collectively, private markets have the potential to address the gaps and constraints faced by government-run healthcare systems.”

Addressing concerns about crippling tax systems on life-saving medical equipment, accessories, and raw materials for drug production, Taiwo Oyedele, chairman of the Presidential Committee on Fiscal Policy and Tax Reforms, provided reassurance. He confirmed ongoing efforts to implement changes by creating new harmonised codes and tariff lines that reflect advancements in medical science.

Additionally, plans are underway to establish special corridors for expedited clearance of pharmaceutical imports and exports.

Oyedele also stated that the potential implementation of higher taxes on tobacco, sugary drinks, alcohol, and spirits to fund healthcare was being evaluated.

This evaluation aims to ensure such taxes do not exacerbate unemployment without effectively addressing healthcare challenges.

He also raised concern regarding the ministry of health’s inability to utilise its existing, albeit insufficient, budget effectively, arguing that allocating additional funds without addressing utilisation issues offers no immediate solutions.

Oyedele warned that even if new taxes generate revenue, they may not significantly reach healthcare unless earmarked by specific legislation.

“I don’t think it’s concluded. We are just waiting for superior argument and data. There is an ECOWAS directive on the percent of taxes on tobacco. Nigeria is a leader in that campaign but it will be done over time so that you are not significantly affecting the sector that is employing a lot of people.”

Pamela Ajayi, HFN president implored the government to embrace public-private integration to bridge gaps that stifle the entry of new businesses aiming to invest in healthcare.

She cited persistent challenges with importing equipment, customs hurdles, stifling regulations, and multiple taxations among issues that should be urgently tackled to improve the healthcare system for all.