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Fashola Flags Off 2013 State Council On Health; Charges Health Experts To Find Means To Increase Access To Healthcare

May 9, 2013 - Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), Thursday flagged off the 2013 State Council on Health tasking healthcare experts and operators to come up with modalities that would increase access to healthcare.

In his keynote address at the event with the theme, "Creating Universal Access to Healthcare In Lagos State", which took place at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Governor Fashola said if all healthcare providers, doctors and financial experts could synergize on the issue, they would be able to create a process that is simple and understandable which would enable more people have access to healthcare.

The Governor declared, "We have to find the synergy now with the doctors who are ready, financial experts and service providers who can create something easy and simple", pointing out that if such a creation was complex, it would become more distant and unattractive to subscribe to by many, especially the critical mass of the population.

Stressing the importance of access to healthcare, Governor Fashola, who cited the example of a Nigerian living in the United States who had to depend on doctors in Nigeria to get drugs and prescriptions for his healthcare, said although some people thought that the new Barak Obama Healthcare programme might fail, the beneficiaries are fully conscious of the value of what they have.

According to the Governor, "Not everything we see, the glitz, represent the reality on the ground. Those of us who thought, oh Obama Care, Obama might lose, but those who got access know the value of what they have got. But even as healthcare may not be visible, as some have argued, it is the most important thing".

"Ask those who are bedridden, ask those who cannot eat. So it is not the beautiful building that the Governor goes to commission, because those sometimes have their political appeal. But people who benefit from real healthcare know that there is no politics in healthcare, it is all about life", the Governor said.

Governor Fashola said although medical personnel and facilities have improved substantially over the years, not many people could access healthcare as a result of the inability to pay adding that though the State Government would continue its free health services to the people, the sheer size of the population and the limitations of resources would make it difficult to cover everybody and every ailment.

He told the gathering of healthcare experts, doctors and operators, "My message today is that, yes, there is personnel, there is infrastructure support and there is medicine. But it has moved largely from treatment to care. And that is what I continue to challenge our Ministry that we must move now, we cannot afford just to treat anymore, we must begin to care. But it costs money".

"Today, we are seeing lifestyle diseases like Cancer, Diabetes, Kidney infections etc. That is a big problem to fund and from this position I know it. The population is also a problem. We referred to Randle Hospital as a health centre many years ago, it is now a General Hospital. The facilities have improved, but how many people can walk in there and have a caesarian session if there is a complication or if there is a threat to either mother or baby or to both?", the Governor asked.

The Governor continued, "Now, is there a problem? Yes. Are we ready to address it? That is why I am here, I don't believe in pretending about problems. Now, I don't know what the solutions are either".

He suggested insurance as "the best option", but added, "How it will work, well some of you are more educated and informed about this business. You are the experts and I thought I should come to discuss with you". He, however, pointed out that Government already has some examples of what it thinks is possible like the community based healthcare programmes that it has started in various parts of the State.

Elucidating further on the insurance option, the Governor declared, "We have looked at somebody who is probably at the last rung of the ladder, a woman who fries akara, somebody who roasts yam for a living and we ask, is there any person in that category who cannot pay N50 a week? So it will add up ostensibly to N200 a month.

"If that is too high, certainly we have to reduce it because the issue of inclusiveness is critical. If we use that for the purpose of today's discussion, it suggests to me that we will have N200 per citizen. What does that translate to with our population? Our own, data using the population data for Lagos State, using the unemployment data and unemployment ratio, using the age distribution in demographics, suggests to us that 8 million people are in employment of some sort and therefore are taxable", the Governor said.

According to him, "If we use the voting data of six million people, it means that we have N1.2 billion in Insurance pool. And in one year, it will make N14.4 billion. If we use that amount for kidney treatment, it means that 2,880 people will benefit. For caesarian session, it means it will grant access to 72,000 women".

"All these mean that not only public hospitals will gain but private hospitals will also gain and it means more employment for medical personnel. It will open up healthcare business and economy in the State. Drug manufacturers will respond accordingly because there will be real and effective demand", the Governor said adding "Now what that portends for medical tourism like what we are trying to do in Lekki, I don't know. But I see a dream".

Expressing confidence that the insurance option will succeed, Governor Fashola further declared, "Our experience as a State has shown that every time we have taken our destiny in our own hands, we have succeeded", citing the successful raising of the State's annual budget from just N14 billion in 1999 to N499 billion in 2013 and the State's Security Trust Fund as examples.

On the Maternal and Childcare Centres built across the State by his administration, Governor Fashola said out of the ten the Government decided to build, seven has been completed while the eighth one would be finished this year, adding that the last two were just out of the procurement agency going for mobilization.

"Of the seven that has been finished, six have been operational for the last three years. So a woman who is pregnant in Ikorodu does not have to come to Ayinke House anymore because there is one in Ikorodu. The woman in Ajegunle who has the choice of going to Ikeja or the Island Maternity now stays in Ajegunle", the Governor said.

Other areas now having MCCs, the Governor said, include Ifako-Ijaiye, Isolo, Surulere, and Amuwo Odofin which, according to the Governor, "is currently being staffed because what we do is to recruit the staff, train them to manage the new equipment before it is opened to the public", adding that the last one is in Lekki "where there has been some delays about some dispute over land but is substantially finished now".

The Governor disclosed that patients in Ayinke House are now being moved to Ifako-Ijaiye for the time being so that the House could be rebuilt and operated adding that about 60 percent of them are already there.

He added, "We are monitoring the feedback we are getting, setting new baselines for ourselves in terms of how many mothers come in pregnant, how many mothers go out with their babies and themselves intact and creating our own data base because sometimes some of the data with which we are judged in this country are out of touch with reality. But the truth is that if we do not create our own data base, we are bound by whatever they say about us".

Governor Fashola thanked the Guest Lecturer, Professor Doyin Soyibo, for accepting to come and speak on the theme, "Creating Universal Access to Healthcare In Lagos commending him for his "originality of thinking that challenges the established order, that has caused people to look at things from a different angle".

"And it does not matter whether it is right or wrong but the ability to say let us look again at this matter and let us stop living in a world of dogmas where they say you can't whistle at night. We must get out of that. It is only a mindset that is ready to get out of myths that is ready to propel its people and its nation towards the frontiers of discovery. If we continue to listen to those myths that are meant to ensnare our minds, we will not fly", the Governor said.

In his Lecture earlier titled, "Creating Universal Access to Healthcare", Professor Soyibo praised Lagos State for leading in expenditure on Healthcare in the country saying although the state does not constitute 10 percent of the country, its budget on healthcare annually far outstrips that of the annual national budget on health.

Declaring emphatically that Nigeria is not the worst country in the world, Professor Soyibo cautioned Nigerians against projecting negative issues consistently on the country adding, "We are not the worst country in the world, we broadcast too much of ourselves outside".

Earlier in his welcome address, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Jide Idris, said the principal goal of healthcare system globally were to improve the healthcare of the population, to provide financial protection against cause of ill-health and to respond to the peoples' expectations, "that is to ensure our citizens' satisfaction".

Also present at the occasion were former Minister of Health, Prince Julius Adelusi, Special Adviser to the Governor on Public Health, Mrs. Yewande Adesina, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Aderemi Ibirogba top officials of the Health Ministry, academics and other stakeholders in Healthcare delivery as well as Private Sector Operators.


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