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Harnessing private sector key to building resilient health system in Nigeria — Experts

Health experts say it is crucial to harness the potential of the private sector to achieve a resilient health system in the country. The experts,…

Health experts say it is crucial to harness the potential of the private sector to achieve a resilient health system in the country.

The experts, comprised of medical professionals, state actors, policymakers, non-governmental organizations, and industry players among others, stated this during the 2023 Future of Health Conference organized by the Nigeria Health Watch in Lagos.

The theme of the conference was  ‘Private Sector as a Catalyst for a Resilient Health System’.

The experts said integrating the sector into the public health system is key to developing an effective health system in Nigeria.

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The President of the Nigerian Medical Students Association (NIMSA), Ejim Egba Clement, said the sustainable development of Nigeria’s healthcare sector lies largely with private partnerships and collaboration. 

He said one key way to harness this is through ‘Diaspora Brain Gain’.

“Nigeria is yet to tap into the full potentials and opportunities that can be garnered from expertise, skills and knowledge of Nigerian healthcare professionals in the diaspora,” he stated.

He said Public Private Partnership (PPP) and collaboration hold the key to sustaining the Diaspora Brain Gain in the Nigerian health sector. 

According to him leveraging the skills and expertise of Nigerians in the diaspora, along with the resources and capabilities of the private sector, can transform the country’s healthcare landscape.

“As Nigeria continues its journey toward achieving universal health coverage and addressing the challenges plaguing its health sector, the synergy between diaspora professionals and private sector entities will play a pivotal role in ensuring a healthier and more prosperous nation,” he added.

The Special Adviser to the President on Health, Dr Salma Anas Ibrahim, said the health of Nigerians is a  matter of national security that requires a resilient health system to ensure the provision and maintenance of care.

She said, “The government is greatly investing in the health sector but there has to be an active involvement of the private sector to secure the coverage and sustainability for sensible national growth, development and progressive prosperity.”

She said having strategic and meaningful partnerships and collaborations between the public and private sectors is key, especially with the backdrop of over 70 per cent private expenditure on health as a share of the total health spending in the country.

She said, “This will help in unlocking the huge potential and improvement of the overall health sector in the country.”

Dr Chito Nwana, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist and chief medical director of Tabitha Medical Center, said this is the right time to integrate the private sector in improving the health outcome of Nigeria, especially maternal health.

She called for more policy frameworks to guide the effective engagement and synergy between the government and the private sector. 

The Chief Executive Officer of the Private Sector Health Alliance of  Nigeria (PSHAN), Dr Tinuola Akinbolagbe, said her organization creates a compelling opportunity to pool private sector capabilities to complement the efforts of the government of  Nigeria and its partners in advancing health for all. 

She said, “PSHAN addresses Nigeria’s health sector challenges through programmes in public health strategy, health systems strengthening, supply chain transformation, nutrition, mental health and health innovation, healthcare transformation and health leadership development.”

She said it has also helped bridge the health sector gaps through mobilizing private sector organizations to contribute significant resources in supporting government’s delivery of public healthcare, among others.

The Managing Director, Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, said Nigeria has a mixed health system, where patients navigate for healthcare between the public and the private sector.

She said this demands better strategic integration between public and private providers. 

Ihekweazu said, “This year, our focus centring on “The Private Sector as a Catalyst for a Resilient Health System” as a theme resonates deeply with the complex dynamics of healthcare delivery in our country. 

“We recognize the indispensable role of the private sector, not just as a provider of services, but as a catalyst for transformative change.

“By leveraging the innovation and expertise within the private sector, we need to strengthen our healthcare system, ensuring its resilience in the face of challenges.

“We in this room all know and must acknowledge, that we must accelerate progress to improve health outcomes in the country…our stats are just moving in the wrong direction.

“Our objectives are clear: to curate profound insights into the private sector’s role in healthcare, initiate learning by bringing diverse sectors together, and exploring opportunities for fruitful public-private partnerships.

“We seek to create a platform where ideas converge, and strategies emerge, bridging the gap between potential and action. “She also said the conference is aimed at outlining actionable steps for the government, crowding in different perspectives and amplifying the discussions.

She stated that the conference explored several panel discussions on private sector financing for health systems strengthening, private sector partnerships and collaboration to sustain the diaspora brain gain, and leveraging the private sector for quality maternal healthcare.  

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