Being the Center of Excellence, Lagos is always exploring innovative ways of making life better for the over 22 million inhabitants of the city- state. Beyond huge transformation of the state through massive construction and upgrading of infrastructure, lighting up the state, establishing community security apparatus amongst others, the state Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is determined to break new grounds in the state’s health sector. The aim is to ensure that every resident of the state, irrespective of tribal or social affiliation enjoys unfettered access to qualitative healthcare. This is borne out of a clear understanding of the objectives of Universal Health Coverage which indicates that all people and communities can use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services do not expose the user to financial hardship.
With huge investment in the heath sector and a mandate to ensure a citizenry that is healthy and happy, the state tops the chart as one with clear-cut policies and meticulously implemented guidelines for promoting effective and qualitative health care. Within the first two years of the present administration, notable strides such as provision of ambulances, purchase of generators for General Hospitals, upgrading of Primary Health Care Centers and establishment of new ones, renovation of facilities at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), revamping of General Hospitals, provision of Helipad for emergency care, commissioning of Critical Care Unit, appointment, training and retraining of various cadres of health workers, upgrading and construction of staff quarters, preservation of industrial harmony among various professional groups and improvement of regulatory and quality assurance activities have been recorded.
These were achieved alongside various programmes such as maternal, new born and child health care programmes, disease surveillance and control activities, malaria control programme, hypertension and diabetes awareness screening programme, blindness prevention, tuberculosis control programme to mention a few that are being strengthened for the health benefit of the people. Recently, Eko Health mission was flagged off to bring health care closer to the people. The mission which visits all 20 local governments and 37 local council development areas on designated dates attends to people free of charge while undertaking services such as consultancy for common ailments, screening and counseling for HIV, diabetes and hypertension, provision of family planning services, as well as screening and treatment of eye problems and dental problems.
Advocacy and enlightenment campaign on prevention of communicable diseases through personal hygiene and environmental sanitation and curtailing of occurrence of non-communicable diseases through healthy lifestyles as well as illumination on the need for improved health seeking behavior among the citizenry are also done. The huge turnout at the Eko Free Health Mission clearly underscores the necessity for the Health Insurance Scheme. The Scheme represents the state government’s trump card for ensuring unfettered access to quality healthcare services.
The vision of sustainable Healthcare and Universal Coverage demands that the state adopts an approach that is not only efficient, but also effective in addressing the growing healthcare demands of the teeming population of Lagos State, a population that has been bloated by diverse immigration from neighboring states as well as other parts of the world. With the healthcare demands of this urban population growing at an exponential rate, and with the cost of care and out-of-pocket payments also increasing, the economic burden on the citizens are becoming more unbearable by the day, hence the understandably large turnout of Lagos residents at the last Health Mission. Definitely, it will require that a sustainable safety net be put in place to improve the health outcome of all residents, especially the most vulnerable in the society, as well as, significantly reduce Out-of-Pocket Payment that persists in Nigeria.
According to the Commissioner for Health in the State, Jide Idris, the Lagos State Health Insurance Scheme is the state government’s answer to this challenge. The Health Insurance Scheme which is backed by Health Sector Reforms is billed to take off this year and is meant to address the health needs of all residents of the state. It will assure citizens, identified by Lagos State Resident Registration Agency identity card, of quality health care service in designated public and private health care centres within the limits that will be determined.
In preparation for the take off of the scheme, primary health care centres in the state have been adequately strengthened and referral to secondary level of care will be done where necessary. Private health care providers to be captured in this scheme are also being properly accredited to assure the citizenry of a high quality level of care. In underscoring the earnest desire of the Lagos State government in making quality health care truly affordable and accessible through this scheme, it is important to stress that the premium cost for the scheme has been determined and fixed. It is, however, heartwarming to state that the fixed cost is lower than the actuarially determined cost to make it within reach of residents.
With the coming of the Lagos State Health Insurance scheme, avoidable deaths will surely be reduced. Salako is director Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Health.
This is because financial constraints which had always been a major factor limiting the health seeking behaviour of Nigerians especially in this time of economic recession, would be squarely addressed. People will present health issues at hospitals early enough for intervention, thereby greatly reducing government’s spending on management of chronic diseases. The financially vulnerable will also be cared for from the pool of fund generated from others. Without doubt, it takes a committed leadership with a great will to take this plunge.
Therefore, as the Lagos State government finalises its plans on the scheme, it is expected that a large majority of Lagos residents will heave a sigh of big relief as access to quality health care services will certainly become better. Salako is director Public Affairs, Lagos State Ministry of Health.