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COVID-19: PSC, Health Ministry clash over N1.2bn treatment fund

An argument ensued Thursday between the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and the Ministry of Health over the disbursement...

An argument ensued Thursday between the Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19 and the Ministry of Health over the disbursement of the N1.2bn case management fund. 

This happened during the 2022 budget defence before the Senate Committee on Health.

PSC Chairman and Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, represented by a permanent secretary in the OSGF, Maurice Mbaeri, told the committee that the fund was released to hospitals for treatment of COVID-19 patients. 

But Director, Department of Hospital Services, Ministry of Health, Dr Adebimpe Adebiyi, said no money was released to the hospitals after meeting all requirements. 

The lawmakers resolved to have a round table on a later date with the Minister of Finance, the Budget Office, the PSC, the Minister of Health and heads of hospitals. 

Meanwhile, the committee, during the budget defence session, flayed the Ministry of Health for not utilizing the N1.5bn released for the treatment of cancer patients.

The committee’s chairman, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said N729m had been released in 2021 aside the N800m fully released in 2020. 

He said no single patient had been treated despite the 100 percent release of the fund. 

But the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, said his ministry was since to kick off the programme in June, but was awaiting for President Muhammadu Buhari to officially launch the fund to attract private donors.

Not satisfied with the explanation, the committee said the programme must commence by the first week of December this year, mandating the minister to launch it on behalf of the president. 

“The ceremony is not necessary when patients die on a daily basis as a result of cancer,” Oloriegbe said. 

The minister, however, assured the lawmakers that the programme would kick start before the end of this month.