By Egena Sunday Ode
The Federal Government has expressed concerns over the rising cost of pharmaceuticals and other life-saving commodities that have gone beyond the reach of the ordinary Nigerian.
Accordingly, it has resolved to improve on the regulation of the healthcare sector in order to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians and deal with the crisis of human resources in the sector.
Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Ali Pate, disclosed this while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting on Wednesday in Abuja.
In order to protect the local pharmaceutical firms amd make them to survive, therefore, President Bola Tinubu, according to Pate, had directed the Attorney-General of the Federation to liaise with the Ministry of Health and come up with an Executive Order to address the situation.
Pate said: “Consistent with the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda, which puts the human capital, health and social welfare of Nigerians at the center, today at the Federal Executive Council, Mr. President took three far-reaching decisions relating to the health sector. The first is on the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, the hike in prices that we have in the pharmaceutical, which is going beyond the reach of many Nigerians, life-saving commodities, devices like syringes and needles and the exit of major companies from our market.
“Those decisions also include the regulation of the sector to protect the health and well being of humans and the third decision is regarding how we deal with the crisis of human resources in the health sector.
“The first on the syringes, drugs, pharmaceuticals and other devices, as you’ll recall, Mr President, in his wisdom, at the end of last year, in October, approved an initiative to unlock the healthcare value-chain and appointed coordinator for that. But we know that the price of pharmaceuticals have escalated and many entities have decided to withdraw and some of the local manufacturers in Nigeria are struggling.
“Mr President’s intent is that we begin to take steps to enable the local manufacturers to survive, to thrive and to deliver the basic commodities that are key to saving their lives and he directed that the Attorney General of the Federation work with us to come up with an Executive Order, which is the mechanism through which he will act, given the concern that he has that many Nigerians are suffering from the costs of pharmaceuticals, as well as other devices. That is the first important step and that should be coming very soon.”
He said FEC also approved the continuous funding of the healthcare regulatory bodies and delegated the waiver which will hasten the recruitment of healthcare professionals to the Ministry of Haelth from the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
“On the second front, the funding of the healthcare regulatory bodies, given the centrality of health regulation to protect the health and wellbeing of Nigerians, regulators of health professionals; Medical and Dental Council, Pharmaceutical Council, … health practitioner, laboratory science, all those regulators, to ensure they are properly funded, Mr President directed that they should continue to receive the funding that they had been receiving in the past so that there is an exception relative to other professional associations that are not healthcare regulatory bodies.
“We know that in absence of strong regulations, quackery will go up, it may exacerbate the fleeing of health workers abroad, as well as many other untoward effects without strong regulatory bodies and that’s one of the pillars of our strategy, to improve governance of the sector and regulation is part of it and Mr. President took a decision to direct that they should be properly funded.
“The third is regarding the acute human resource shortage that we have. We know and having gone around many of our hospitals, particularly federal tertiary hospitals, the replacement of health workers that leave oftentimes takes a very long time because waiver process takes several stages and Mr. President directed in council that the approvals of those waivers be delegated to the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare so that it doesn’t have to go through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation. That will hasten the recruitment of health workers in terms of those who are out there unemployed, within limits of their fiscal resources.
“All in all, to say that President is very keen that we drive forward to safeguard the health of Nigerians, to earn the confidence, the trust of Nigerians and to deliver for Nigerians in this new year that we have started and the marching orders are very clear.”