The Federal Government’s N252.87bn recurrent expenditure and N51billion capital expenditure plans for 2017 is raising concerns among health practitioners for the fate of millions of Nigerians especially the poor and vulnerable who depend on government-funded primary healthcare facilities.
Civil society groups and non-governmental agencies have been urging the government to pay critical attention to areas such as routine immunization, family planning, ending childhood killer diseases, nutrition, child and maternal health through increased funding at primary health centres in rural areas.
But health practitioners who spoke to BusinessDay say next year’s budgetary allocation will not do much to address these problems.
There is even no optimism it will reverse the trend of poor maintenance of existing facilities reduce public officials travelling abroad for routine medical treatment or reduce out-of-pocket spending for medical services by Nigerians.
“The budget proposals are too low to achieve any appreciable impact in the health sector, government is still not paying adequate attention to primary healthcare which is what the country needs,” Obitade Obimakinde, of the department of oral & maxillofacial surgery, Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti told BusinessDay by telephone.
He said that more attention should have been paid to improving access to primary healthcare as it is the closest to the poor and vulnerable.
Abdulrahman Abubakar, Nigerian Medical Association’s chairman, committee on finance said the current recession could have been a factor in the low funding allocated to the health sector which is just a paltry 4.17 per cent of the total budget.
“Of course more can be done especially in the area of primary healthcare,” he said.
Doyin Odubanjo, a public health specialist says the current funding should be applied majorly to providing equipment in primary healthcare centres to deliver the most value.
“Majority of the burden of diseases are what can be taken care of at the primary care level. So the government should be looking at diseases prevention and treatment at the primary health level.
“People should be able to access the closest primary health centre to them in their local governments. Government needs to look at what majority of people will need to combat basic disease like malaria and other infections. We already have some speciality centres, there is need to upgrade and equip them so they handle more complicated cases and for that you need the right equipment.”
During the budget presentation speech at the National Assembly on December 14, President Muhammadu Buhari allocated N303billion to the health sector of which N252.87bn was allocated for recurrent expenditure and N51bn for capital expenditure.
“We propose with regard to healthcare to expand coverage through support to primary is healthcare centres and expanding the National Health Insurance Scheme,” said President Buhari.
However health practitioners are of the view that this this structure of allocation, limits the ability of medical centres to maintain existing facilities or acquire modern medical equipment and encourages medical tourism.