One Year Anniversary of the National Health Act, 2014
PRESS STATEMENT OF THE PERMANENT SECRETARY, FEDERAL MINISTRY OF HEALTH
MR. L. N. AWUTE mni
ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE
NATIONAL HEALTH ACT, 2014
31 OCTOBER, 2015
It is a great pleasure for the Federal Ministry of Health to mark this historic occasion of the one year anniversary of the enactment of the National Health Act, NHAct 2014.
The National Health Bill was accented to by the President on the 31st day of October, 2014. Prior to that historic moment, stakeholders in Nigeria and in diaspora had lamented the absence of any legislation guiding the operations of the Nigerian National Health System. The major lacuna observed as a result of this situation was the lack of clarity on the responsibilities of the different tiers of the Health System in the provision of health care services – a situation that was argued to have accounted for low levels of commitment and investment in health care at all levels, and its attendant below par output.
The National Health Act (NHAct) 2014 is without doubt one singular instrument required to unlock economy and the greatest transformation for the Health Sector in Nigeria. The NHAct 2014 has established the Nigerian National Health System, specifying all the key players and actors therein and their roles and responsibilities. It has strengthened the operations and operators of the Health System for greater and improved health outcomes. Coming at a time when the world is negotiating its future in a post-2015 world is even more significant, because we are now more empowered to become global players in health.
The Act, for the first time, provides clarity on what constitutes the National Health System which is the Federal Ministry of Health, Ministries of Health in the 36 States and their equivalent in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), parastatals under the Federal and State Ministries of Health, local government health authorities, ward and village health committees, as well as private, traditional and alternative health care providers. It stipulates that the Health system has the responsibility to providing for persons living in Nigeria, the best possible health services and to protect, promote and fulfill the rights of the people of Nigeria to have access to health care services. The Act also provides for the establishment of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), which is a demonstration of the importance accorded to assuring equity and access to health care services to all categories of people, especially the poor and most in need.
Quality of healthcare has also been significantly addressed with the establishment of the “Certificate of Standards” and the proper “Classification of Health Establishments and Technologies” regimes. The Act has also provided for the further strengthening of referral care, coordination of the practice of healthcare service providers as well as a mandate for the periodic evaluation of the services provided in all health establishments including human resources.
It prioritizes the patient by protecting the rights of the client to information and providing for a mechanism for addressing complaints, while stipulating the rights and responsibilities of health personnel. The Act further strengthens our National Health Information and the National Health Research Systems. Collectively these will encourage the institutionalization of evidence based decision making while promoting development through health research.
Furthermore, the NHAct addresses critical issues of availability, distribution, capacity development, and management of Human Resources for Health in Nigeria. It has also made provisions to ensure availability of quality blood for transfusion purposes in accredited health facilities, protections of the rights to self-determination of the individual on the use of his/her blood or tissue and allowable areas for which, and places at which such blood, tissue or other related products can be used among others.
The Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), provides for predictable and sustainable source of financing for Health and shows commitment to the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC). If effectively implemented, the National Health Act (NHAct) 2014 is cumulatively capable of saving 3,131,510 lives of mothers, newborns and Under-5s by 2022, in addition to improving the health status of Nigerians in general.
The Economic Benefits are enormous as individuals and families will have more disposable income through reduction in catastrophic health expenditure occasioned by very high out of pocket expenditure when the mandatory social health insurance scheme that will be supported by the Act, especially for the vulnerable groups, is implemented.
The NHAct also for appropriate sanctions against contraventions of the provisions of the NHAct including those related to use of blood, tissue, and gametes have been provided for to guard against abuse and exploitation.
What the Act has done is to empower every Nigerian to take COMPLETE charge of their health and also provide them with protection and access to health care even in emergency situations. THE ACT GUARANTEES THE RIGHT OF THE PATIENT AT ALL TIMES.
One of the key challenges affecting progress in this country is the poor implementation of approved policies. Cognizant of this reality, the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) had since put in place a structure to ensure the operationalisation of the NHAct. It comprises a Steering Committee, a Technical Review Committee and a Technical Working Group. The membership of these committees were drawn from the top management of the FMOH, its agencies, development partner agencies, non-governmental, and civil society organizations, the private sector, academia, and other stakeholder communities.
The technical working group, which, has been working earnestly over the past seven months has recorded a number of achievements including (1) the gazetting of the Act; (2) development of a comprehensive costed Implementation Plan; (3) development of the Draft Harmonized Basic Healthcare Package - a key achievement needed to fast-track our work towards Universal Health Coverage; (4) Draft Guideline for Coordinating, Accessing, Disbursing, and Utilizing the BHCPF; (5) Advocacy and Orientation Workshops and package for operationalization of the Act in more than 15 States, with plans to cover all states soon as possible.
Recently, during the visit of the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) represented by the Regional Director to the country as part of the processes for delisting Nigeria from among Polio endemic countries, Mr. President reiterated his commitment to the implementation of the NHAct 2014 and the operationalisation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) starting 2016. This fund when fully implemented would be catalytic in enabling government provide basic health care services to all people in Nigeria especially the poor and vulnerable. This is indeed a bold statement by Mr. President in fulfillment of his promises to the Nigerian people. Let me use this opportunity to most profoundly appreciate President Muhammadu Buhari for his unflinching support to the health sector, in our quest to providing quality health care to all Nigerians, when they need it.
As you are all aware, reforms such as those enunciated by the NHAct 2014 are best implemented within coherent policy frameworks that allow for better coordination and sustainability. In these regards, we have commenced process of reviewing our 2004 National Health Policy and to develop the 2016-2020 National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP) as well as the National Health Financing Policy and Implementation Strategy. These policy instruments will facilitate the implementation of the NHAct in a sustainable manner while aligning Nigeria’s efforts to achieving UHC and the Health Related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Permit me at this point to acknowledge all our stakeholders who have supported us in this effort. These include members of the various sessions of the National Assembly since 2004, development partners, government and non-government agencies including the civil society organization who have worked assiduously with us to ensure the passage of the NHAct-2014 and in the process of its operationalization. As we take giant strides towards providing for the critical health needs of our people, I sincerely wish to call on all stakeholders and communities, to continue to work with government, noting that with collective efforts, we are able to record greater achievements.
I wish to thank you all for sharing this important moment with us, and invite you to the march ahead towards strengthening the performance of the Nigerian Health System into one that is resilient and appropriately responds to the needs of our people.
I thank you all.