December 16, 2021— Nigeria like many other Low-and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), has made Universal Health Coverage (UHC) one if its major policy goals. However, progress is slow on both national and subnational levels with very low healthcare coverage. Moreover, good quality care is not widely accessible, and people report low levels of trust in the health system. To mark its 20-year anniversary, PharmAccess Nigeria therefore decided to focus on the discussion on how to advance alternative mechanisms for healthcare financing. In a series of round table discussions, stakeholders came together in Lagos, Kwara and Abuja to advance the dialogue around new sources of funding, and to place healthcare financing centrally on the policy agenda.
First round table: Lagos
The first-round table discussion in Lagos was held during a conference organized by PharmAccess and the Enterprise Development Center (EDC), themed ‘Talent, Technology and the Nigerian Health Sector’. Among the 150 participants were representatives from the private and public sector including Interswitch Nigeria, Delta State Health Contributory Scheme, Nigeria Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), First Cardiology, Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Ebutte Metta and many others
During one of the panel discussions Njide Ndili, Country Director of PharmAccess Nigeria, stressed the relevance of public-private partnerships in improving quality healthcare coverage, noting that the government alone cannot cater for the health needs of the population. She also spoke about taxation being an important mechanism for realizing increased funding, which should be ring-fenced (strictly allocated) for health.
Second round table: Ilorin, Kwara
The second-round table discussion was held in Kwara state in collaboration with the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital. The event was the first to host all relevant health bodies in the state, joined by representatives of trusted civil society groups. It signified the beginning of a more cooperative, effective, and successful funding of the health sector and emphasized the need to stimulate new and sustainable mechanisms for health financing.
Third panel: Abuja
In Abuja, the third panel took place in partnership with the UHC Forum 2023, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Civil Society Organizations, and others. It brought together political leaders and stakeholders including traditional rulers to talk about how to place health and health security on the political front, especially in the light of the 2023 general elections.
Speaking at the event, the President of the 8th Senate, Dr Bukola Saraki said Nigerian leaders at all levels need to take healthcare delivery and UHC seriously. He stated: “To achieve development, the Nigerian population must be healthy. If we can get healthcare coverage right as a nation, we will be doing a lot for our citizens. However, the people that truly matter, political leaders and decision-makers should be the ones at summits like this, to discuss what their manifestos and plans in the healthcare sector are for the Nigerian people.”
Stakeholders at the summit highlighted the need for a countercyclical approach to health spending, stressing the need to increase spending in the health sector in times of crisis. They also advocated for the removal of inefficient subsidies in other sectors (such as the recently removed oil subsidies) and redirecting them to health; tackling health system inefficiency; adopt a centralized strategic purchasing model and set up a health trust fund.
Conversations generated from the round table talks will be turned into a communiqué and a policy statement, which will be given to key health stakeholders in the country, in the course of 2022.