Those that follow the Nigerian health scene will be aware of The National Health Bill that has been with the National Assembly for close to two years.
There are fundamental problems with the organisation of health care delivery in Nigeria. One of the most important lapses is that the most critical aspect of health care delivery; primary health care is left in the arms of the weakest part of governance in Nigeria (the Local Government). The Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange has argued severally that for things to move forward we need to address this legistlative dilemma.
To quote her…
“….the absence of a National Health Act to back up the National Health Policy has been a fundamental weakness which needed to be tackled frontally. This weakness means that there is no health legislation describing the national health system and defining the roles and responsibilities of the three tiers of government and other stakeholders in the system. This has led to confusion, duplication of functions and sometimes lapses in the performance of essential public health functions”
Health care workers in Nigeria have been literally begging lawmakers to pass the bill. The WHO made it top of the agenda in a recent meeting with Nigerian Health care Professionals. A Nigerian National Health Conference (NHC2006) begged for our National assembly to pass the bill.
The move to have a National Health Bill for Nigeria suffered a setback in the Senate as the consideration of the report was suspended during plenary session yesterday.
The bill was read the second time and referred back to the Senate Committee on Health for the final legislative work before the end of the last senate tenure in June 2007.
To conclude legislative work on the bill yesterday, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello presented the report as scheduled for consideration in yesterday’s Senate Order Paper.
But the Senate Leader, Senator Teslim Folarin immediately moved a motion for the report to be suspended until the senate revisits its standing rule 111.
The motion was seconded by the Deputy Minority Leader, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, who was a member of the Health Committee that worked on the bill in the last senate.
The rule states: “The Legislative business of the Senate which remains undetermined at the close of session or the life of the Senate shall be resumed and proceeded with in the same manner as if the session or life of the Senate has not ended.”
Not even the argument of Senator Obasanjo-Bello that the nation is in dire need of a National Health Bill and that so much work has gone into the bill including public hearings, retreats and discussions with various stakeholders could make the senate change its mind yesterday
.She said: “The bill before you today is probably the most important bill on Health that will be passed by this distinguished Senate and probably the most important health bill passed by the Senate in our country’s history concerning the health of the people.”
“The need for this bill arises because the Constitution is silent on health. Health is not mentioned on either the exclusive or concurrent list. The only area related to health mentioned is Drugs and Poison on the exclusive list.” She stated.
“Being healthy is mainly preventive medicine, which is why Primary Health care is important and should be the focus on our health delivery system. Solidifying primary Healthcare is the only way to improve health for most Nigerians.
She went on: “Yet on born Nigerians will benefit from the impact of this bill. It provides funding for Primary Health Care, regulation for carrying out human clinical trials, regulation for transplanting, rights of health care workers and patients, division of health responsibilities of Federal and State Governments among other details.”
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead