The broad scope of the portfolio assigned to Muhammad Ali Pate as Nigeria’s coordinating minister of health and social welfare has prompted an adjustment in the expectations of stakeholders on healthcare management.
Most expectations now have an improvement in the social factors that promote overall well-being added to the core mandate that the value chain of healthcare systems should be reconstructed and adequately funded for better health outcomes.
Some see the scope of the portfolio capturing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) constitutional provision that “health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
Leke Oshuniyi, chairman of Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN), said Pate’s leadership might exert focus on ‘Health for All’ by achieving universal health coverage, creating a safety net for the vulnerable or those out of jobs, for instance.
He expects Pate’s experience in global health management to be brought to bear on pooling funding to solve Nigeria’s biggest health threats from malaria to tuberculosis, HIV, and low vaccination coverage among others.
“There is a vulnerable group fund that is supposed to provide healthcare to 83 people who are poor. If you look after them with N12,000 per person per annum, it comes to over N1 trillion,” Oshuniyi said. “That’s a huge burden and I know that he can bring money in from abroad, through counterpart funding to grants. There is a lot of funding that is not coming in because there is nobody to capture the funds.”
Many had expected the confirmation of the globally acclaimed expert to come with the conventional role of “minister of health”.
But it came with the additional duty of social welfare supervision, and out of Tinubu’s 45 ministers, only Pate and Wale Edun have the ‘coordinating minister’ title.
A quality healthcare delivery, according to WHO’s analysis, must be effective, safe, people-centred, timely, equitable, integrated, and efficient.
By this, the health system should perform at a degree to which health services for individuals and populations increase the likelihood of desired health outcomes.
It is evidence-based, avoids harm to people for whom the care is intended, and provides care that responds to individual preferences, needs, and values.
These are not new to Pate.
He was global director of Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank and the director of Global Financing Facility for Women, Children, and Adolescents, based in Washington DC.
He has also served as chief executive officer of Big Win Philanthropy, based in the UK, and prior to that, he held several senior positions, including that of minister of state for health in Nigeria under former president Goodluck Jonathan.
He was previously in the World Bank Group where he joined as a Young Professional in 2000 and worked on health issues in several regions including Africa and the East Asia and Pacific.
Pate is a medical practitioner trained in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases, with an MBA from Duke University.
Prior to this, he studied at the University College London and holds a Masters in Health System Management from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK.
Toyin Saraki, founder of Wellbeing Africa and former first lady of Kwara State, described Pate’s track record as a tireless chain of efforts in advancing healthcare accessibility and quality in Nigeria.
She said, in a Twitter post, that his record of bridging gaps and evidence-driven actions and advocacy for equitable healthcare is an indication that he is poised to bring about revolutionary changes in Nigeria’s healthcare system.
“I am confident that under Pate’s guidance, Nigeria’s health and social welfare sectors will once again witness remarkable advancements, improved access to healthcare services, and a renewed focus on the wellbeing of every individual, shaping a brighter healthcare landscape for generations to come,” Saraki wrote.