President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
President Tinubu

Assessing Tinubu’s Renewed Hope in Health a Year After By Aishat M. Abisola 

Upon his inauguration on May 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his administration embarked on a mission to reform Nigeria’s health sector, address longstanding issues and improve healthcare delivery across the nation.

It is however apt to assert that before Tinubu’s government was enthroned, Nigeria’s healthcare system was plagued by several issues such as insufficient infrastructure and poorly equipped hospitals and clinics (particularly in rural areas). Many Nigerians, especially in remote regions, had limited access to basic healthcare services.

Nigeria was and is still facing a chronic shortage of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and specialists as a result of brain drain. Nonetheless, President Tinubu, through the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammed Ali Pate; has made significant strides in healthcare reform since assuming office. The key initiatives and reforms introduced (and highlighted below) aim to improve the health sector’s infrastructure, accessibility, and overall efficiency, targeting several critical areas:

1. Health Sector Renewal Investment Initiative: During the commemoration of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day in December 2023, the federal government launched this reform which was focused on a comprehensive overhaul of the healthcare system. The initiative plans to mobilize around $2.5 billion between 2024 and 2026, sourced from both federal contributions and international development partners. This fund aims to revamp primary healthcare infrastructure, re-train frontline health workers, and improve medical equipment.

2. Expansion of Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs): Tinubu’s administration has committed itself to doubling the number of fully functional PHCs in Nigeria from 8,809 to 17,618 by 2027. These centers will be equipped with improved infrastructure and linked to a comprehensive emergency care system to ensure better service delivery across the nation.

3. Redesign of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF): The BHCPF is also being restructured to improve access to essential healthcare services as mandated by the National Health Act of 2014. The redesign of this fund is expected to ensure better financial protection and healthcare accessibility for the vulnerable populations. The administration has already reinstated funding for 13 National Health Regulators across Nigeria.

4. Universal Health Coverage (UHC): President Tinubu’s administration has constantly been reiterating its commitment to achieving UHC, aiming to make healthcare a fundamental right for all Nigerians. This also includes efforts to expand health insurance coverage and create healthy risk pools that will improve financial access to healthcare.

5. Local Manufacturing and Health Value Chain Development: The administration has gathered its focus is on increasing the domestic production of generic drugs, vaccines, and medical devices such as syringes. This initiative aims to reduce dependency on imports, lower costs, and improve the quality of healthcare services. The appointment of a National Coordinator for the ‘Unlocking Healthcare Value-Chain’ initiative, Dr. Abdu-Mukhtar, underscores the administration’s commitment to enhancing the healthcare sector’s economic and operational aspects. A ban has already been passed against the importation of plastic syringes to boost local production in Nigeria.

Achievements by the Ministry of Health in the Past Year

1. Expansion of Health Insurance Coverage: By February 2024, the federal government had enrolled 750,000 more Nigerians into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), significantly increasing the number of people with access to healthcare coverage.

2. Recruitment of Medical Professionals: Over 2,000 medical professionals were recruited to address the workforce shortage in the healthcare sector, enhancing the capacity to provide quality healthcare services across the country.

3. HPV Vaccine Rollout: The Ministry of Health has introduced and administrated the HPV vaccine to 4.7 million girls in 14 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer, a major health concern for women in Nigeria.

4. Response to Diphtheria Outbreak: An emergency taskforce was constituted by the Coordinating Minister of Health to tackle the diphtheria outbreak, which severely affected regions like Kano, Yobe, Katsina, Borno, Kaduna, and Bauchi, accounting for 97% of confirmed cases.

5. Operational Guidelines for NHIA: The Ministry revealed the new operational guidelines for the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) for the purpose of improving the average Nigerians financial access to quality healthcare and move towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

6. Vision and Eye Health Improvement Policies: In response to the high number of Nigerians suffering from treatable sight loss, the Ministry unveiled three policy documents to enhance vision and eye health. These policies are coordinated through the National Eye Health Programme (NEHP) and aim to empower Nigerians by improving eye health services.

7. Noma Treatment Center and Control Programme: The establishment of a Noma Treatment Center and a national control programme aimed at raising awareness, early detection, and treatment of Noma, an infectious disease that causes severe facial disfigurement. This initiative includes training healthcare workers and community mobilization officers.

8. National Policy on Patient Safety: The Minister of Health introduced Nigeria’s first-ever National Policy and Implementation Strategy on Patient Safety and Care Quality to improve the quality of healthcare and ensure the safety of patients within the healthcare system.

Conclusion

Indeed, President Tinubu’s administration has made a lot of improvements in certain areas of Nigeria’s healthcare system but there are still a lot of challenges remaining. Enhanced vaccination rates and better maternal and child health services are signs of progress, but infrastructure deficits, workforce shortages, and funding limitations still continue to hinder the country’s overall healthcare quality and accessibility.

Addressing these challenges will require sustained efforts, increased funding, and comprehensive reforms to build a resilient and inclusive healthcare system for all Nigerians. Future reforms should be aimed at increasing healthcare accessibility and quality, particularly in rural areas, and improving the working conditions for healthcare professionals.

Sustained and comprehensive efforts are necessary to achieve substantial improvements in Nigeria’s healthcare system. The current direction that the sector is heading on seems positive but the pace and scale of reforms must accelerate to meet the healthcare needs of Nigeria’s growing population effectively.