Health: A sector in need of resuscitation

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016 8:52AM /FBNQuest Research 

The two-day National Economic Council (NEC) Retreat which was held in Abuja closed yesterday. The aim of the retreat was to generate medium and long term policies that will address challenges within discussed areas of the economy at both the federal and state levels.  

Five specific sectors were addressed and Nigeria’s healthcare sector featured as one of them. The latest national accounts provided by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that the Human health and Social services sector grew by 2.6% y/y in 2015 compared with 10.5% y/y growth recorded in 2014.    

The “brain drain” in the health sector has been cited as one of the chief reasons for underperformance in Nigeria’s health sector. Based on industry sources, approximately 33% of graduates trained in Nigeria’s state medical schools migrate to the US, Canada or the UK within 10 years of graduation.  

In addition to this, statistics from the British Medical Council highlights Nigeria as one of the countries with the greatest number of non-UK qualified doctors registered to work in the UK. 

We gather that there are only 20 Federal Teaching Hospitals and 23 Federal and State Medical Centers across the country. For an economy with a population of 170 million, this is grossly inadequate. 

Excerpts from President Buhari’s speech at the NEC retreat suggest that an estimated US$1bn is spent annually on medical treatment abroad. 

The recent inflation data released by the NBS show that prices in the health segment under Urban Consumer Price Index rose by 9.1% y/y in February. Meanwhile, under the Rural Consumer Price Index, prices within the segment rose by 8.1% y/y in the same month. 

Poor power supply remains one of the major roadblocks in the health sector as in many other sectors. Power fluctuations and low voltage damage medical equipment. The Buhari-led administration has disclosed plans to add 2,000MW to the national grid this year. 

Increased investment towards the sector is a necessity. However, the FGN has to create a conducive environment. This month, General Electric in collaboration with the FGN launched a US$20m health initiative. The initiative is geared towards expanding access to digital antenatal screenings to expectant mothers. 

Reviving the health sector requires a lot of structural changes which can only be achieved realistically in the medium to long term.

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