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Minister Reads the Riot Act to Health Maintenance Organisations

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By Laide Akinboade, Abuja

Angry at the poor performance of Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) in Nigeria, the Federal Government has said it would no longer tolerate the situation,

The Minister of Health, Dr.

Osagie Ehanire, stated this at Strategic Stakeholder’s engagement with HMOS, organized by National Health Insurance Scheme(NHIS), in Abuja.
He said with on-going reforms at the agency, the HMOs must review their operations because this would help them to be relevant and reputable in the new NHIS.

The Minister who was represented at the occasion by Director of Hospital services, Dr.

Omale Ahmadu, said, “Report reaching me indicate that an overwhelming percentage of enrolees and health care providers have expressed grave concerns over the performance of HMOs with areas of the concerns including, but not limited to, non-remittance of payments to healthcare providers, poor customer service delivery and inaccessibility to enrolees at critical moments of need.

“The collective results of these and many other cases of service failure in the industry are poor service delivery, poor quality of care and a worrisome reputation damage for the Scheme”.

The Minister while declaring open the meeting stressed, “let it be noted today, ladies and gentlemen, that these anomalies are no longer acceptable, because this government is determined to get it right with NHIS, in view of its status as a strategic tool for effective and efficient healthcare delivery system in the country.

“I therefore have no doubts that the HMOs will key into the reforms to rebrand NHIS, by frankly addressing internal reforms within and among themselves”.

Ehanire said based on the ongoing reforms at the agency, he called on all stakeholders to take full advantage of the reforms in NHIS, to engage in frank conversations around the issues that have clogged the wheels of NHIS in the past.

“I wish to repeat myself by saying that all stakeholders of the National Health Insurance Scheme are expected to take advantage of the reform mood of the regulatory body, to critically examine themselves and their operations. This is the only way to remain relevant and reputable in the new NHIS we are building”, he said.

In his speech, the Executive Secretary of NHIS, Professor Mohammed Nasir Sambo, said it was imperative to achieve the key objectives of the agency.

“If we don’t achieve the main objectives of NHIS posterity will judge us. President Muhammadu Buhari is in a hurry to see the success of the health insurance scheme in Nigeria. So it is imperative for all stakeholders in this health insurance scheme to be committed in making it successful”,.

Former President, Resident Doctors of Nigeria, Dr. Kayode Obembe, in his goodwill message accused the GMOs of not following the stipulated laws established by the scheme, “We have very good guidelines but people are not following it. We must obey the rules and regulations, that is how we can make progress.

And whenever we go to them and tell them, this is what the law says, they don’t follow it. We need to have more legislation on the scheme”.

He lamented the health insurance scheme poor coverage in the rural areas, “The goal is Universal Health Coverage, UHC, and it can only be achieved by community based health insurance scheme”.

Health

Malaria: Enugu Govt. Cautions Nigerians Against Self Medication

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Dr Uchechukwu Okenwa, the Director, Public Health and Disease Control, Enugu State Ministry of Health, has urged Nigerians to desist from consuming anti malaria drugs when having fever.

Okenwa gave the advice on Saturday during the inauguration of the Advocacy Communication and Social Mobilisation (ACSM) Core-Group for Malaria Elimination Programme (IMPACT) in Enugu.

Those inaugurated were representatives of National Orientation Agency, Academics, Media, Traditional Rulers, Ministries of Environment, Information, Justices, Health and Non Governmental organisations on malaria among others.

Okenwa, while inaugurating the representatives, noted that before now Nigerians used to take anti-malaria drugs like groundnut once they feel feverish without knowing if the fever is caused by pneumonia, stress or other things.

According to him, many Nigerians  believe that every fever  is malaria, making them to take anti malaria drugs to cure it.

“I want them to understand that not all fever is malaria. When you have fever, you should go for test and if it shows  malaria, treat it.

“If it is negative, you look for other thing that is causing it which may not necessarily be malaria and that is what we are advocating for,” he said.

The director regretted even when most  results showed negative, some health officers still went  ahead to treat malaria.

He explained that testing had been designed in a way that it would not take days to get result, stressing that within 20 minutes, the result could be ready.

“It is about our commitment to make a behavioural changes towards malaria,” he stressed.

On the effort the state was making to eradicate malaria, Okenwa said that Gov. Peter Mbah had paid counterpart fund for malaria programme, adding that the state had trailer loads of malaria drugs in their stores waiting for distribution to Enugu people.

“We have also secured warehouses waiting for arrival of mosquito nets which will be distributed for Enugu residents,” he said.

Presenting what was expected from ACSM members, the Social Behaviour Change, National Malaria Elimination Programme, Abuja, Owoya Samuel, said that the members should ensure promotion of positive behaviour towards prevention and control of malaria at all levels.

She tasked them on advocacy, communication and social mobilisation to eliminate and tackle the issue of malaria in the state.

Speaking on the Malaria Indication Survey (MIS) in Enugu, Owoya said that the result  showed that 25 per cent did not have access to mosquito net, 47 per cent had it but not using it, while 16 and 14 per cent said net was not need at night due to absence of mosquitos at night.

“Eight and 10 per cent said net is dirty and old respectfully while 38 per cent said they are not using net because of hot weather. Environment and nature may informed these decisions,” Samuel said.

Earlier, Dr Ifeoma Otiji, the Enugu State Malaria Programme Manager and Coordinator, said that the meeting was first of its kind on malaria in the state.

She reiterated the state’s commitment to improving and increasing malaria  advocacy, communication by sensitising citizens of the state especially rural dwellers about the dangers of malaria.

According to her, for years, the state has malaria programmes but now wants to accelerate it.

“We brought everyone together here to start advocacy and communication coverage as well as bridging the gap by getting the communities know what is on ground and what they should do to create demand for malaria services,” Otiji said. (NAN)

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NCDC Unveils Integrated Disease Testing, Surveillance Laboratory in Lagos

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 The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has unveiled an Integrated Disease Testing and Surveillance Laboratory for Malaria, Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and other infectious diseases.

The NCDC’s Director-General, Dr Jide Idris, during the unveiling  at the NCDC Central Public Health Laboratory in Yaba, Lagos, said that the laboratory was aimed at strengthening the fight against diseases of public health importance in the country.

Idris said the integrated laboratory would be a game-changer in the fight against infectious diseases of public health importance to the country.

Idris said the establishment of the laboratory was made possible through partnership with the U.

S. Consulate Mission in Nigeria, the CDC Foundation, Public Health Initiative (APIN) and The Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) in Nigeria.

Idris said: “Nigeria has one of the highest diversity and burden of public health diseases with global significance in sub-Saharan Africa and response to diagnosis-related challenges for infectious diseases.

“We have identified the need to develop capacity for advanced diagnostic services and laboratory-based surveillance capacity for NTDs, malaria, mycotic diseases,and similar diseases of public health importance

“The establishment of this integrated laboratory diagnosis facility will be a game-changer in the fight against infectious diseases by providing accurate,early,and comprehensive diagnosis,informative decision making for enhanced patient care.

“It will ensure proactive disease surveillance, outbreak management,optimise antimicrobial stewardship.

“It will also ensure reduced antimicrobial resistance, inform research and development for new diagnostic tests and treatments, improved patient safety and reduce healthcare costs, enhanced global health security through rapid detection and response”.

The D-G expressed gratitude to the U.S. CDC, CDC Foundation, , APIN and TECRO for their commitment and support to complement the effort of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration to enhance the country’s health sector.

Speaking also, the representative of the U.S. Consul General to Nigeria, Mr Will Stevens, said Nigeria had one of the highest burden of global malaria cases and deaths, noting that the establishment of the integrated laboratory was critical.

Stevens said there was need to provide Africa Solutions to Africa problem, noting that the country’s response and resilience in curbing the spread of Ebola and COVID-19 outbreak was impressive

“Nigeria is a regional leader and as leader, we need more African solutions to these African problems and African solutions to global problems.

“This laboratory will bring world-class healthcare, world-class research, world-class monitoring and detection systems to the people of Nigeria and allow Nigerians to continue to be a global leader,” he said.

Also, the Chief of Mission to the Taiwanese Government in Nigeria, Andy Liu, said it was a honour for Taiwan government to collaborate with the U.S and the CDC Foundation to support and strengthen Nigeria health system through the establishment of the laboratory and donation of world class equipment.

“This is significant and it is important for the international body to help build a world class laboratory with advanced equipment for Nigerians.

“We are looking forward to more collaboration to build more capacity in the health sector and strengthen our relationship with the country,” he said.

Prof. Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, in his remarks described the establishment of the integrated laboratory as a move in the right direction.

Abayomi emphasised on the importance of collaboration in strengthening and building capacity to address health challenges affecting the country.

Speaking also, the Senior Programme Officer of CDC Foundation, Cassandra Webster, said the partnership with the NCDC, CDC Nigeria, and other collaborators would help strengthen the public health infrastructure in Sub-Saharan Africa.

According to Webster, the gesture will boost Nigeria’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats in the country.

“I’m glad to be here for the launch of such an important partnership, the CDC Foundation is an independent, U.S.-based nonprofit body created by the U.S. Congress to help advance and extend the life-saving work of CDC and the public health through public-private partnership.

“This continued progress against malaria and neglected tropical diseases is critical to saving lives, and our efforts to strengthen this laboratory, using advanced technology.

“I thank TECRO for their critical and generous support for this important effort, and I also want to thank the CDC Nigeria and NCDC teams for their partnership,” she said.

Report says that advanced medical equipment were donated to the NCDC for the establishment of integrated laboratory (NAN)

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Stakeholders Express Worry over zero Dose Immunisation in 13 Bauchi LGs

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Stakeholders in Bauchi have expressed  significant concerns over  zero dose immunisation for children in 13 Local Government Areas (LGAs) and communities in the state.

They expressed worry at  a capacity building workshop for for the members of the Community of Practice (CoP) on immunisation budget tracking, accountability,and sustainability targeting zero dose children organised by  the Africa Health Budget Network in Bauchi.

Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, the Executive Chairman  of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Board noted that inspite  of the availability of vaccines which are administered free of charge, 13 LGAs  have recorded zero dose.

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These LGAs, he said,  are Alkaleri ,Bauchi, Ganjuwa, Darazo, Gamawa, Itas Gadau, Katagum, Misau, Toro,  Ningi, Shira and Zaki.

”Even out of the remaining 7 LGAs, 2 are porous because they are bordering neighbouring Yobe and Jigawa,” he said.

The cxecutive chairman further noted that zero dose reduction strategies have been put in place to include periodic intensification of routine immunization, in between rounds of activities and market vaccination.

“We don’t know why parents and care-ivers refuse to vaccinate their children. And to address this, the Board takes the vaccination to hard-to-reach communities, at naming ceremonies and follow normads along their routes.”

Giving an overview of the immunisation financing landscape at the state level, Mohammed said that the state government remained the main source of funding for health.

He added that the government is being supported by the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, Bauchi State Health Trust Fund, Bauchi State Contributory Management Agency, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, MOU partners and the World Bank Projects.

He said:”in 2024, the State allocated N45.1 billion representing 15 per cent to the health sector out of the total state budget of N300.3 billion, while my Board got N11.6billion”.

He added that with the transition of the MOU arrangement from Routine immunization MOU to PHC, Bauchi is now responsible for 100% payment of immunisation activities.

” This money will be used for vaccine delivery, cold chain maintenance, Routine immunization intensification and demand generation among others,” he added.

On his part, the Africa Health Budget Network Chief Executive Officer and Coordinator, Dr Aminu Magashi said that the organisation is a sub-partner to the African Field Epidemiology Network on the Nigeria zero dose learning Hub.

He noted that GAVI established the learning Hub to address issues around immunization equity by identifying zero-dose and under-immunised children using the identity, reach, monitor, measure, and advocate framework.

AHBN has established a community of practice which focuses on budget tracking, accountability, and sustainability.

He stressed, “The capacity building is to help the CoP members influence the immunization financing landscape through evidence-based advocacy.”

The CoP members include health experts, relevant  government officials, Academia, Media, Civil Society Organisations, social Media handler’s among others (NAN)

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