Senate passes national health bill

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The Senate has passed the  National Health Bill 2014 into law.

The bill, which was read for the third time and passed, seeks to establish a framework for the regulation, management and development of the nation’s  health system.

The bill is entitled; “A Bill for an Act to Provide a Framework for the Regulation, Development and Management of a National Health System.’’

The bill is also to ‘’Set Standards for Rendering Health Services in the Federation and other Matters Connected There With, 2014”.

The bill which had been before the Senate since 2013 had suffered several setbacks which the sponsor Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa (PDP-Delta) said helped to fine tune it.

Speaking to news men after the bill was passed, Okowa said that the new bill would help Nigeria to achieve the Universal Health Coverage and meet  the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target.

He said that if the bill had been passed earlier, there would have been several contentious areas in it, adding that it was better it was  delayed until now.

Okowa said the bill would not only bring remarkable improvement in the health care sector, but it would also regulate the practice in the sector and eliminate quacks while promoting professionalism.

He said that the bill would provide basic health funds needed by Nigeria.

According to him, it will ensure that the Federal Government contributes one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund for the development of Primary Health Care (PHC) in the country.

“We all know that the primary health care is within the purview of the local government councils, the states and the Federal Government actually do give support programmes apart from technical support.

“This bill also seeks to provide one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund for the purpose of the development of the primary health care.

“The bill is also for the purpose of providing health care insurance to certain class of people who are actually deprived.

“The 50 per cent of the one percent fund that is provided for in clause 11 under a Basic Health Care Fund will be utilised by the NHIS for providing health coverage.

“This will cover pregnant women, children who are under five and the elderly and physically challenged persons.”

Okowa said that he was hopeful that the President would use his discretion to increase the fund from the one per cent stipulated in the bill.

According to him, part of the funds will be used to equip the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) as well as train and re-train nurses and midwives.

“PHC is what we need in this country and we are supposed to have at least one primary health care centre in every ward, but we do not have well trained personnel. We need to train them and we need to have adequate drugs, equipment and facilities”, he said

He said that the bill would allow states to participate in improving primary health centres through a counterpart fund that would enable them to benefit from the consolidated revenue fund.

“Fifty per cent of the fund shall be used for the provision of basic minimum package of health services to citizens in eligible primary or secondary health care facilities through the NHIS.

“Twenty  per cent of the fund shall provide essential vaccines and consumables for eligible primary healthcare facilities.

“Fifteen per cent shall be for the provision and maintenance of facilities, equipment and transport for PHC facilities’’, he said.

According to him, 10 per cent of the fund shall be used for the development of human resources for PHC”.

Speaking on the friction existing among professional bodies in the health sector, the lawmaker said that the National Health Bill was tailored to put an end to the endless crisis.

According to him, it will define responsibilities and limitations of each professional body.

“It will also create opportunity for the Nigerian health practitioners to make inputs into the annual budgets of the health sector’’,he said.

The bill also made provision for five per cent of the consolidated revenue fund to be used for emergency medical treatment to be administered by a committee appointed by the National Council on Health.

The Senator said that sanctions for quack or careless health care workers as well as other malpractices in the sector were provided copiously in several clauses of the bill.

Okowa, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, expressed confidence that the bill would enjoy speedy assent by the president and hoped that implementation would begin in 2015.

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