The Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, on Tuesday, said his government, in the past six years, focused on revamping and strengthening the State’s healthcare system, prioritizing investment in the development of infrastructure and capacity building.
Obaseki said this during a presentation titled, ‘Transforming the Healthcare Sector,’ at an interactive session between Edo State Government and members of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Edo State Chapter, Private Medical Practitioners, and other stakeholders in the health sector, held at the John Odigie-Oyegun Public Service Academy (JOOPSA) in Benin City.
Obaseki, who reaffirmed his government’s commitment to ensuring a resilient health system to deliver quality, efficient, and affordable healthcare services to Edo people, called for the collaboration and support of all stakeholders to sustain reforms in the health sector in line with the government’s vision to transform Edo as a hub for medical tourism.
He said, “We can’t resolve all the health issues we met in eight years but we promised that in these eight years, we will set a new direction and start the change of making Edo what it used to be in terms of health services. We hope that in another 20 to 30 years, we will be where we ought to be and want to be regarding the healthcare system.
“First is to rebuild our institutions because, without the right institution, we can’t develop. Institutional development is key. We are focusing on training the people. In changing the healthcare system in Nigeria, it must begin in Edo State.”
According to him, “We must all agree and look at healthcare as a system and ask the role of government in the healthcare system. Our healthcare system was designed by the British when Central Hospital was built in 1918 as it was built around the government but as time went by, a lot of private investment came into healthcare, changing the face.
“As a government, we sat down six years ago to rethink our healthcare services, anchored on four pillars. My role is to regulate the healthcare industry as the government is not the largest provider anymore. The second role is to train, support and produce quality manpower for the Healthcare Industry. Third is healthcare financing as people find it difficult to pay for healthcare services and make progress with the Edo Health Insurance Scheme.”
The governor added, “Healthcare financing is the basis upon which everything rests in the system. Our health Insurance scheme has done well in these past years. We are moving towards enrolling 300,000 persons. Our goal in another year, if we push harder, will be to enroll one million people, bringing a significant pool of resources.”
Noting that efforts to rejig the healthcare system in the state have been focused on primary healthcare centres. Obaseki further noted, “Our emphasis is on Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs). Every citizen need not drive beyond five kilometers before reaching a PHC center. The Government can't afford to run many secondary care centers or facilities but I urge private practitioners to key in as over 10 private healthcare providers have come to invest in Edo State with an average investment of about 10 million dollars each.
“We need a radical rethink of where we are coming from. The era of general hospitals is gone. There is no reason why government hospitals should not and cannot compete effectively with private hospitals as both are treating patients. Government hospitals should produce the highest quality of manpower and compete effectively with any other provider.”
On capacity development to sustain the reforms in the sector, the governor stated, “We want to spend our resources in training and providing the manpower for the health industry
“We have a lot of transformation going on in the State as nobody will come to build the system for us. The responsibility to fix the system lies with most of us. Edo is going to be a medical hub in the next 50 years as we train critical personnel for the health system. Our location is strategic and people pass through the State. We have also invested in electricity to create an environment comfortable for investment.”
Reiterating that the government was strengthening the regulation of the system, he added, “Nobody should be able to open any facilities without approval to do so. Our emphasis is now on regulation as we police the space to ensure those that ought not to be there are driven out of the system. We will work with NMA to eliminate quackery. We will make a strong regulatory function supported by you to stop quackery in the State.”
On his part, the Edo State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Samuel Ali, commended the governor for prioritizing investment to strengthen the State’s system, ensuring quality healthcare delivery to the people of the State.
He noted that the Obaseki-led administration has upgraded over 20 PHCs while 12 others are currently being upgraded, adding “over 250 health workers have been recruited this year to strengthen the State’s healthcare system.”
The Chairman of NMA, Edo State Chapter, Dr. Udoka Imoisili, while commending the governor for his development strides in the health sector, said the association is willing to collaborate with the government to move the health sector in the State to an enviable height.