Former commissioner for Health, Cross River State, Dr. Betta Edu, has described primary healthcare as the foundation of any health system in any country of the world.
She explained that primary health care is the closet health system to Nigerians, and stressed on the need to fix the primary health care, in order to achieve universal health coverage.
Betta, who was also the national chairman of the Nigerian Health Commissioners Forum, was one of the 28 nominees for ministerial appointment by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, screened on Monday.
Speaking during her screening at the national assembly, she explained that, “It would have been a great window of opportunity to fix our health sector, but it was not fully utilized, 60 per cent of Nigerians, ofcourse pay out of pocket and they look forward to a better, more functional health system.”
The national women leader of the All Progressives Congress APC, from Abi Local Government of Cross River State, asked, “What should we be advising and working with our very, very strong politically conscious president to see that we achieve in the health sector?”
She explained that, “number one, I think the beginning of the problem is governance, we must get the right governance and the right structure from the top all the way down to the health facilities, who are those manning it, who are the managers, who are the planners? Is it properly planned, and what are those adjustments, and streamlining that needs to happen?
“Like distinguished senator rightly said, there are federal medical centres everywhere, there are teaching hospitals everywhere, how functional are they, what quality of service can they offer?
“As it concerns the health workers that are leaving, a couple of things can be done; number one, we can change the payment structure for health workers to see that they get better incentives and they can stay on, they are leaving because probably countries like Saudi Arabia promises a greener pasture, and that is why they are leaving.
“Number two, we can make the environment more conducive for them to stay, so that they can thrive and deliver their health services. Number three, it is important for us to create another structure where health workers can be employed, outside the direct structure that we have now.”
Betta said that is so that, “some are employed through agencies and then some directly, this way you can sip in every single health worker from where ever they are, we need every one of them.
“I’ve also want to suggest that as a matter of urgency, our medical institutions across the nation should be improved to train more health practitioners that will go into the system.
“Beyond this, it’s important for Nigeria as a country to concentrate on our health insurance, I’m very happy and I am very thankful to this legislative house that you were able to pass the bill to make health insurance mandatory for all Nigerians. Everyone should contribute the little and we all share the risk and we share the benefits. That way we can offer free health care to pregnant women and children under five, that will reduce maternal mortality and reduce under five mortalities, that way we can reduce catastrophic expenditure, that have sent several families into poverty.”
Responding to question asked on women empowerment, she said, “Nigeria women need empowerments at all levels, beginning from the grassroot all the way up. I’m very proud of Mr. President that he was able to appoint into his cabinet a good number of women, which is the first start. We want to use this opportunity to plead with the legislative arm that bills that will support and protect the Nigerian women should scale through in the 10th assembly, that way it provides a legal framework for women to increase our participation in politics, governance and leadership.”
On poor health services, Betta who happens to be the first female minister from Cross River State and the youngest minister at the Federal Executive Council of Nigeria in the Fourth Nigerian republic, explained that, “primary health care is the foundation of any health system in any country and that is the closet health system to Nigerians where they live, where they work, and except we fix the primary health care, we cannot achieve universal health coverage.
“The government working with the legislative arm have provided the basic health care provision fund, we want that, private sector participation and indeed all our development partners to come onboard to see that Nigeria primary health care is completely functional and that will go into the secondary, the teaching hospitals and specialist hospitals.”