The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has urged the Federal Government to consider privatising the nation’s hospitals for them to perform optimally.
NMA National President, Dr Uche Ojinmah told newsmen on Sunday in Abuja that this had become necessary for both the teaching and public hospitals to guarantee the needed fund for their effective operation.
“As far back as 2014, we wrote a compendium on how to fix these teaching hospitals and public hospitals and there are two options if the government wants to fund it properly.
“Go for 15 per cent of the national budget for the health sector and also release the budgeted funds because budgeting is different from cash backing. So, if they can fund it well and release the necessary cash to back it up then these institutions can come up to speed.”
He said that with this, the government could demand accountability while the other option was privatisation.
In this case, Ojinmah said that it could be outright privatisation, where the hospitals could be fixed and then sold. “Or we can go for graded privatisation where they sell 51 per cent of the shares. Of course, they should fix it up a bit so that it could fetch some money.
“They get a core investor or sell 51 per cent of the shares to the core investor; if the government does not want to leave totally it can keep a certain percentage, maybe 30 per cent so that with that they can still moderate the price so that we don’t go for full gains to the detriment of the people.
“Then the remaining 19 per cent should be sold to the workers to retain the hospital so that they know they have a stake in this business and they will give their all so that is not all about salary,” he said.
He added that boosting the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) would bring more people into the health insurance net and give them better service at reduced costs.
“So, if you privatise these hospitals and you channel the money, you would have budgeted for them every year for the next five years into the NHIA to capture more people under that, it will make it easier for them to assess those hospitals.
“With this, it will be easier for the people to get treatment and if you do that and personnel are well paid, everybody knows you are here to do your job, the major shareholder can decide that he wants to buy automated equipment, you cannot stop him.
“However, as it stands today, in Nigeria right now, the way we are running it, healthcare delivery is a social service and not a profit service,” Ojinmah added.
On how the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) would fare under such privatisation arrangement, the NMA president said it was time to divest Federal Government’s interest in PHCs as running PHCs should be the business of local governments.
According to him, many of them no longer function properly due to lack of maintenance and personnel, a situation that proper motivation of health personnel will address.
“If you want me to leave Abuja as a doctor to run a PHC somewhere in the rural area, I think that there should be extra allowance for that.
“It makes simple business sense to say that those going out there should be given rural posting allowance that is heavy, so that they can attract personnel to the PHCs but the government does not want to do that.”