Dr Osagie Ehanire: A new captain for Nigeria’s health sector

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The long wait is over! Following the beginning of a new administration in May 2019, Nigeria now has a new captain to steer the affairs of the health sector and lead the Federal Ministry of Health and its many agencies. Following the submission of the ministerial nominees to the Senate by the Presidency and subsequent screening, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has been handed the portfolio of leading this important sector that has the potential to make or mar Nigeria’s development. He is not new to the health space and is expected to bring his vast experience and knowledge of the sector to help Nigerians live healthier and more productive lives.

Dr Ehanire is not new to leadership in the Nigerian health sector as he served as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Health between 2015-2019 where he forged a close working relationship with Professor Isaac Adewole, the former Minister of Health. The Minister of Health and Minister of State for Health were able to forge a collaborative working relationship during their just-concluded four-year tenure. Nigeria’s Ministry of Health has been described as one of the most complex, with well over 100 mini-parastatals, given that every tertiary health institution has its own board and management. Therefore, the opportunity of having a Minister who already understands the system, the challenges and bottlenecks is a major advantage for Dr. Ehanire’s tenure.

The Nigerian health sector is a work in progress | Dr Osagie Ehanire | Business of Health Conference

Dr Ehanire is a surgeon and holds a medical degree from the College of Medicine, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, Germany. He also holds post-graduate diplomas from the teaching hospital of the University of Düsseldorf and Essen, Germany in the areas of anaesthesiology, general surgery, and orthopaedic trauma surgery. He has served on various boards both within and outside Nigeria, including Chair of the Board of Trustees of the TY Danjuma Foundation. Before going into administration, he had an illustrious clinical career – he was Senior Registrar Clinical Instructor, University of Benin Teaching Hospital; Member of the old Bendel and Edo States Hospital Management Board; Consultant Surgeon, Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria; Clinical Course instructor, Fracture Internal Fixation course at the BG Accident Hospital, Duisburg, Germany. He co-authored the orthopaedic book “The severely injured limb” edited By John Ackroyd.

Great! So, what’s next?
Earlier this year, we published a blog piece that highlighted key priority areas for Nigeria’s health sector in 2019. This included polio eradication, better private sector engagement, primary health care, maternal and child health, epidemic preparedness and universal health coverage.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

In one of our weekly #NHWEngage conversations on Twitter, we asked our social media community to articulate the top three priorities they want the new minister to focus on. We likened the important seat of the Minister of Health to the Iron Throne, a highly coveted seat in the popular TV Drama series, Game of Thrones, that set records for the most Primetime Emmy award nominations for a show in a single year with 32 nominations. The question received overwhelming responses with many of the recommendations aligning with those highlighted in our earlier blog. They also came from reputable organisations and individuals working to make Nigeria’s health sector better. Find the responses below, in respective categories. We urge the new minister and his team to reflect on these pertinent issues as they begin their important task of shaping Nigeria’s health sector for the next four years.

Photo source: Twitter @Sheriff_m

Health Financing


PharmAccess –“Support state-led mandatory health insurance schemes.”

Vaccine Network for Disease Control“The BHCPF which was recently launched and being implemented in a few states as pilot phase should be strictly monitored to ensure its success. Health Insurance for all should be a priority.”

Olaokun Soyinka“Health care financing. (State-supported Health insurance schemes).”

Rob Yates“Persuade Muhammadu Buhari to treble domestic tax financing for health.”

Buki Shittu-Muideen –“Leveraging on innovative measures to finance health in Nigeria. Government can’t do all.”

Caleb“Reposition the NHIS to achieve scale & impact. Implement the BHCPF to scale. Increased funding for healthcare.”

Photo source: Twitter @bkshittu

Universal Health Coverage/Primary Healthcare
Vaccine Network for Disease Control – “Implementation of existing strategies & development of new ones to achieve UHC”
PHC Initiative Africa – “Strengthening Primary Healthcare”

Sheriff M – “Should make primary healthcare the priority by making sure there are functioning, well-equipped and managed PHC Centres in every ward so as to address issues to infant and maternal mortality among others.”

Charity Aienobe-Asekharen“Strengthen PHCs especially in remote Communities.”

Photo source: Twitter @Medicx_Gist

Human Resources for Health
Dr Olaokun Soyinka – “Human resources for health (Complete overhaul & modernisation of training & cadres).”

John Abu – “Skilled health personnel in hard to reach PHCs complete with functional blood banks and the accessibility of essential lifesaving drugs.”

Jude E. Onwugbaramuko – “Upward review of Health workers salary commensurate with acceptable global standards to reduce Brain-drain in the Health Industry”

Sheriff M – “There should be adequate manpower and resources by employing more doctors and health workers and increasing allocated funds in/to all primary, secondary and tertiary health institutions around the country.”

Etietop Eshiet – “Gainful employment and deployment of young health care professionals to primary, secondary and tertiary health care facilities by working hand in hand with all state commissioners of health through the state minister of health.”

John Abu – Skilled health personnel in hard to reach PHCs complete with functional blood banks and the accessibility of essential lifesaving drugs.”

A cautious optimism, waiting to exhale
Even though mixed reactions greeted the submission of potential ministers, these expectations shared by Nigerians on the NHW Engage platform show they are hopeful that the health sector can be better. Leading this important ministry also presents a unique opportunity for the new minister to leave a memorable legacy.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch
Late Prof. Olikoye Ransome-Kuti is still remembered for his impact on PHCs and HIV/AIDS. Dr. Eyitayo Lambo, the first economist to ever serve as Nigeria’s Health Minister led the health sector reform after Nigeria ranked low in the World Health Organization’s assessment of the health system performance of its member countries. His tenure also oversaw the merging of National Programme on Immunisation with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and launch of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

The immediate past Minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole will be remembered for many things especially the implementation of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, execution of the largest population-based HIV/AIDS survey in the world, presidential assent to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control bill and launch of Nigeria first electronic health facility registry.

Asking for public opinion around efforts aimed at national development is not new. The internet has only made it easier. Before inauguration on the 29th of May 2019, UReport conducted a poll for the Office of the Vice-President to understand areas Nigerians want the federal government to focus on in the next four years. 151,762 people participated in the poll. 69% wanted the government to focus on job creation, 6% on infrastructure, 12% on security while 10% wanted healthcare and education. Also, during a media roundtable with journalists in Abuja recently, the President/ CEO of Resolve to Save Lives and former Director of the United States Centres for Disease Control, Dr. Tom Frieden shared how New York City adopted a society approach to solve the emergence of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis in the 90s.

Image credit: Nigeria Health Watch

The National Council on Health meeting is the highest policy-making institution in the Nigeria health sector and one of its numerous functions is to identify health goals and priorities for the nation and monitor the progress of their implementation. The National Council on Health meeting will take place 2nd – 6th  September 2019. This is an important platform that should be used to garner momentum to drive the health sector in the next four years and it presents opportunities for submission of memos by organisations and agencies working in the health space, to advance their functions.

The stage is set for the new minister to etch out what he will be remembered for. We at Nigeria Health Watch wish him well and look forward to engaging actively with the administration, as we continue to encourage accountability and transparency in governance and share the successes that will make our health sector deliver #HealthForAll. Dr. Osagie Ehanire, welcome to the service of Nigeria’s health sector!

The #NHWEngage is a weekly online conversation that helps us to amplify our advocacy, connect with our audience and their personal stories and thoughts on the issues we constantly advocate for. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #NHWEngage.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. Dr. Wilson Ovienria.

    Reduce the burden of blindness in Nigeria. Especially Cataract blindness by promoting the eradication of Cataract blindness in Nigeria to commemorate Vision 2020, “The right to sight”.

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