President Bola Ahmed Tinubu
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Tinubu’s First Hundred Days: The Highs and Lows in Health Sector By Aishat M. Abisola

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration has finally reached its first 100 days since his inauguration on the 29th of May, 2023.

Throughout his first few months as President, the Nigerian health sector has seen both highs and lows.

Crucial Appointments

President Tinubu took his first major step on the 15th of June when he appointed Dr. Salma Ibrahim Anas-Kolo as his Special Adviser on Health.

She was chosen for having over 25 years of experience in Health Sector Development as well as being well-versed in health sector policy formulation, strategic development, resource mobilisation and implementation of various health programmes at international, regional, and national levels.

President Tinubu through Mrs Anas-Kolo promised to increase the annual budgetary allocation to the health sector to 10 percent. This decision became because according to her, increased financing for health was a main priority for the administration.

This announcement was in response to the low budgetary allocation to the sector over the years which stands at about five per cent. She added that if the 10 percent allocation is managed judiciously, there was the possibility of an additional increment.

On the 21st of August, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate and Dr. Tunji Alausa were inaugurated as Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, and the Minister of State, Health and Social Welfare respectively at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Experts said their appointments were commendable considering their expertise and experience in the field.

Upon his inauguration, Professor Pate assured Nigerians that he would work towards ending medical tourism in Nigeria, stating that his team would place Nigerians at the heart of the policies and their implementation to ensure that the health indices of the country improve. He noted that this was in line with the renewed hope mandate and vision of President Tinubu.

Dr. Tunji Alausa, the Minister of State for Health, on his part, stated that he would work with Mr. Pate to ensure that Nigerians appreciated the impact of healthcare delivery.

“Our people deserve a basic, comprehensive, internationally acceptable level of healthcare and we will start thinking of healthcare as a human right issue. Lack of basic healthcare to any Nigerian from now on will be considered as a violation of the human right of that Nigerian.”

HPV Vaccine on Cervical Cancer

On the 28th of August, Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), unveiled the federal government’s plans to introduce the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to girls between the ages of 9 to 15.

According to him, the vaccine which will be introduced on the 25th of September is meant to protect them against cervical cancer.

Industrial Disputes

Strike actions by some of the unions in the Health sector also dominated the President’s first 100 days.

While the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) went on strike for weeks over the same issues that have been there for years, other health workers unions had a couple of engagements with the government.

Some of the demands for which the association went on strike were: immediate payment of the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund (MRTF), implementation of a minimum of 200 percent increment in Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) and the upward review of associated allowances, payment of outstanding arrears of consequential adjustments, hazard allowance and skipping allowance and the immediate release and implementation of the guidelines on one-for-one replacement of clinical staff that have left Nigeria in search of greener pastures in the Diaspora.

The Joint Health Workers’ Union have also been breathing down the neck of the government with a couple of old and new demands.

Some of the demands were the immediate payment of the omission and shortfall in the COVID-19 hazard/inducement allowances of affected health workers in the federal health institutions, inculcation of peculiar allowances to health workers under the JOHESU/AHPA and the immediate approval and implementation of the Technical Committee Report on CONHESS adjustment by the federal government.

Other demands were the payment of outstanding salaries, improvement in welfare packages for healthcare professionals, implementation of promotion for doctors, annual salary increments, the implementation of the minimum wage and consequential adjustments.

A 25 percent increase was made to the CONMESS structure but it was rejected by JOHESU as the increase was meant to be based on data which differed from the inflation rate between when the CONMESS was approved and now since there is an increase in fuel price and also a decrease in the value of the naira.

The Nigerian Dental Association (NDA) also urged President Tinubu to implement a National Oral Health Policy in Nigeria to improve oral health and reduce the chances of contracting oral diseases for many Nigerians as well as instill the habit of good oral hygiene in children.

During a 3 day training that was organised to commemorate the 2023 World Breastfeeding Week, the CEO and founder of the Maternal Adolescent Reproductive Child Health (MARCH) Health Care Initiative, Mrs. Lawal Aiyedun-Olubunmi, urged the Federal Government to implement a Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition Policy for women and children, a policy aimed to highlight infant and children’s nutrition in complicated circumstances, curb the burden of cerebral palsy and scale up health insurance coverage for children with special needs.

On the 23rd of August also, Mrs. Oluyemi Kalesanwo, the Permanent Secretary in the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, urged for the implementation of a National Food and Nutrition Policy for the healthy developmental growth of children.

The policy will provide a framework that will address the issues of food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria up to the national level and its goal is to improve the nutritional status of all Nigerians, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable groups, i.e., children, women, and the elderly.

Last Line

With only appointments and promises, the federal government has not made many changes to the health sector to improve the health of patients and increase the remuneration of doctors.

The administration can start by listening to the demands of the unions to achieve industry harmony which is crucial for sanity to resign in the sector.