…Holds 1st state council on health in 33 yrs
As part of strategies to discourage the continued migration of health professionals especially doctors and nurses to foreign countries in search of greener pastures, Abia State Government says it will introduce an enhanced welfare package for medical personnel in its employ from 2024.
Gov. Alex Otti who disclosed this while declaring open the first ever Abia State Council on Health held Wednesday at the Ochendo International Conference Centre Umuahia, said his administration was resolute in rejuvenating and revolutionalising the state’s health sector which he met in deplorable condition.
Otti who recalled that he had during his inaugural speech, promised that Abia health sector would “come first” under his watch, said he deliberately allocated 15% of the 2024 budget proposal to the health sector in fulfilment of that promise.
He noted with deep concern, the rate at which health professionals especially doctors and nurses migrate abroad, saying that the scenario if unchecked, is capable of rocking the health sector.
The Governor who said his administration had taken a number of actions to reposition the health sector in the state, hinted that health workers would receive better welfare package from 2024 in addition to prompt payment of salaries.
Otti said that he decided to defray the backlog of salary arrears of doctors in the state to end their incessant strike actions and save the health sector from total collapse.
The Governor who also expressed delight that the medical college of the Abia State University had regained its lost accreditation by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, vowed that never again would the medical sector in the state be allowed to deteriorate.
He also disclosed that the state had started recruiting skilled attendants for the deaf, adding that insurance scheme will be introduced to reduce the financial burden of out-of-pocket expensis on health care.
Earlier in her speech the Commissioner for Health, Dr Ngozi Okoronkwo, who gave the theme of the Council as” Providing Accessible, Affordable and Quality Healthcare System for the New Abia”, said it was aimed at putting the health sector on a sustainable path towards development.
According to her, the focus is to bestow on the people, a health system that meets their health needs irrespective of their socio-economic status.
She said that Government was determined to reposition and strengthen the Primary Health Care System which caters for over 60% of the health care needs of the people.
The Commissioner announced plans to establish two functional PHCs in each Local Government and to further strength the secondary healthcare institutions for referrals.
She disclosed that besides the retrofitted Abia Diagnostic Centre Umuahia, and the Amachara Specialist Hospital, three General hospitals renovated by Otti’s administration would soon be inaugurated while renovation work is going on in 14 other General hospitals in the state.
She said that 50,000 vulnerable groups plus 4000 pensioners to be enrolled in the health insurance scheme in demonstration of value the administration attached to health.
In a remark, the World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative (WR), Walter Kazadi Mulombo, commended Abia State Government for its commitment towards improving access to health care services in the state.
Mulombo who was represented by the South East Zonal Coordinator, Dr Vivian Ibezimakor, noted that many countries were yet to recover from the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
He pledged continued partnership and assistance of WHO in efforts to improve health care delivery and disease eradication in the state.
Other donor agencies and stakeholders including CARITAS, Solina Health, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, among others were present at the event.
Delivering a keynote speech, former Director, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Ngozi Azodo, described the Council meeting which was the first of its kind since the history of Abia State as a significant milestone to the state’s journey towards health care delivery.
Decrying the devastating effects of japa syndrome ( migration of health personnel), Dr Azodo regretted the absence of well-trained human resources to man medical facilities in the South East.
She noted with concern, that Government was not spending enough on the health sector as citizens still bear the bulk of their spendings on health.
Dr Azodo further lamented that about 33,000 women die in Nigeria every year during childbirth, adding that 70% of the deaths are preventable.
She urged Governments to invest more in the health sector for the good of the citizens especially the poor.
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