By Hassan Zaggi
The Kebbi State Governor’s wife, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi, has challenge advocates and other stakeholders in the health sector to work assiduously and come up with what she described as ambitious advocacy road map that will bring about the inclusion of cancer care and family planning services in the standard package by the end of 2021.
She made the call at the opening ceremony of a two-day retreat for the inclusion of family planning and cancer services in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), in Abuja.
The retreat was organised by the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) in partnership with NHIS, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS).
“I challenge this forum to come up with an ambitious advocacy roadmap that bring about the inclusion of cancer care and family planning services in the standard package by the end of 2021.
“We must also pay attention to the global and regional advocacy that is required to deliver favourable pricing on drugs and other health management resources,” she said.
The governor’s wife further stressed that: “Access to family planning services is critical to health care outcomes in a country like Nigeria, it advances reproductive, maternal and child health across our population.
“The growing prevalence of cancer demands that we strengthen our health systems to primarily prevent incidence, and also provide access to treatment services.
“Well-designed and resource sensitive health insurances benefits packages available on state and national health insurance schemes can see these services incorporated into packages in the immediate future.
“We will need to secure the commitment of legislative chambers and the executive arm of governments across the nation to make it a reality.
“Strategic advocacy is important to optimizing access to quality health care services, it opens up spaces for engagement with policy makers and authorities necessary to bridging the existing gaps in our health care systems that results in widespread inequalities.
“No doubt that advocacy for the inclusion of family planning and cancer require the collaboration and commitment by all stakeholders,” she said.
Speaking, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Health Services, Yusuf Tanko Sunun, has called on the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the Federal Ministry of Health, to harmonise the payment for indigent cancer patients who cannot afford to pay for their treatment in order to avoid double payment.
He revealed that the Federal Ministry of Health has concluded plans to begin to reimburse hospitals the money they spent in treating indigent patients who cannot afford to pay for cancer treatment.
While insisting that there is need for wider coverage by the NHIS, the lawmaker said: “We need a wider coverage. For us to have at least 70 per cent of Nigerians covered by NHIS or State Health Insurance Scheme (SHIS), we must ensure that there is availability of funds. Luckily for us, the amendment of the NHIS Act has gone far.
“In that Bill, we have alternative sources of funding healthcare. With that we do hope that more money will be available so that, at least, healthcare that is a human issue should be available, affordable, accessible and of good quality to Nigerians.”
He said that cancer funding has improved since the past two years, but lamented that there is slow implementation of the funds.
“Through advocacy, cancer funding was improved. We have received two funding, we have the 2020 and 2021 funding, but as I mentioned, there is slow implementation.
“I am happy to say that following my inquiries at the Federal Ministry of Health, they have identified centres and they are going to request claims from hospitals that indigent patients cannot pay so that they can be reimbursed. It is meant to reimburse for any cancer patient that cannot afford treatment.
“Fortunately for us, as part of our agenda when we came, is to ensure that NHIS expand its scope and they have already included cancer treatment care in the package of NHIS.
“I therefore, call that there is harmony between the spending from the health ministry and the NHIS so as to avoid double payment as far as claim is concern,” he noted.
Speaking, the President, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof. Innocent Ujah, described the retreat as apt, noting that it will strengthen advocacy to build political will for inclusion and implementation of family planning and cancer service in the NHIS.
He stressed that , “the inclusion of family planning will also serve to improve acceptance and continued use of family planning to prevent unintended pregnancies through correct, consistent and social behavior change.”