By Francis Ezediuno
Honourable (Pharm.) Adeleke Ogunsola, Chairman, House Committee on Health in this interview with OSUN DEFENDER’S Francis Ezediuno, explains why at this time Osun needs to implement the health insurance scheme, steps he has taken to intervene in the impasse between doctors in the state service and other sundry issues.
OSDF: As the Chairman House Committee on Health, what are the areas of your oversight functions?
Ogunsola: All the health facilities in the state are under my committee. That is what we call oversight. We oversee what they have appropriated for in the budget estimates of the year and make sure that, that is what is actually being executed by the Executive.
The Appropriation law is what we oversee to ensure that it is actually followed to the letter.
OSDF: Is health free in Nigeria albeit the State of Osun?
Ogunsola: Health can never be free. In Nigeria, the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which is supposed to be a kind of relief is not even free. For some surgical operations, it may not be covered except the enrollee enjoys a special allowance apart from the general one.
Back to Osun, the progressives, main theme is that health care must be free for all and sundry at all levels. That is what the progressives would always want and pursue, but sometimes the economic reality would not allow it.
We have come to realise that health care cannot be free. To certain categories of people, that is, children, elderly and the pregnant women it can be free, but the working class has to pay for the health care services they enjoy.
Since the inception of the Rauf Aregbesola administration, health has been free, but for some few months now due to the paucity of funds and the inability of government to meet some demands which led to the agreed modulated salaries, it is certain that it could not be sustained. This has also affected the health care delivery system in the state. The volume and quality of services delivery has dwindled due to no fault of the state government.
On immunisation, Osun has been rated second nationally. Even the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has commended the State Government of Osun for being the first to pay its counterpart fund of N21 million.
Do not also forget that the government gave pregnant women Mama kits recently, while the children whether of the rich or poor and the elderly are also taken care of. All these categories of people fall under the vulnerable group and the state government ensures they enjoy maximum health care delivery for free.
Mr. Governor is the first governor to implement the ‘Agba Osun’ programme where the elderly are paid monthly stipends. This came about after the state government worked with a consultant Gerontologist from the Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital Complex (OAUTHC), Ile-Ife on a research on the elderly.
In the overall, we are still saying that in Osun, health care delivery is relatively free.
OSDF: Health Insurance Scheme is still attributed to the working class, is that supposed to be the norm?
Ogunsola: It is supposed to be in stages. That is for the formal and informal sectors. You know when government wants to introduce such scheme, it is easier for it to be introduced to its personnel; the formal sector. In Osun now, the health insurance scheme will be introduced for both the formal and informal sectors. It will come on stream very soon.
Those who even need it most are those on the informal sector. For a token, they are going to enjoy professional care and advice, quality drugs and be attended to by qualified medical personnel.
I am very sure people in the informal sector will like to key into it because looking at the financial aspect, of the scheme they spend less for more care.
OSDF: Will the state health scheme be made compulsory for citizens or for only interested participants?
Ogunsola: The system we want to operate will make it voluntarily compulsory. In delivering a new thing to the people, they are usually scared of change but that is the only permanent thing in life especially to their health. I can assure you that there will be sensitisation that will make 99% of citizens both the formal and informal to take interest.
The State Ministry of Health is in the last stage and the scheme will be introduced very soon.
OSDF: How will enrollees access the services; will it be only in public health facilities?
Ogunsola: These things will be spelt out. I can assure you that during the sensitization and enlightenment programmes which will be well publicised, these things will be spelt out in details.
We have to come down to the level of the people at the grass roots. We want to pass the information and we also want them to comprehend it.
OSDF: There have been cases of staff who hardly report to their duty stations?
Ogunsola: You are very correct to a certain extent but usually people far away from the grass roots may not know what is happening. That is why the State Ministry of Health has a monitoring team in place.
This team’s job is to visit these remote stations even at night where the staffers are running shifts.
Government has gone to the extent of even introducing Sheriff Guards to monitor activities of health workers at these remote locations. The government is aware of this development and in order to support the orthodox method of monitoring, Sheriff Guards have been assigned to complement.
The government is also trying to encourage and motivate the monitoring teams in terms of logistics and other things.
OSDF: The impasse between the medical doctors in the state employment and the Ministry of Health vis-à-vis the state government, how have your interventions to resolve the crisis been?
Ogunsola: Medicine is a noble profession and taking a look at the Hippocratic Oath medical doctors take, they should not allow themselves to be used by politicians or even allow their own profession to be politicized. The difficulties we are experiencing as a state is not peculiar to Osun, the situation is the same all across the country with regards to the economy which we have severally explained to them.
We think that they would have been well informed to know that what is happening is not a deliberate action taken by the state government.
We have to give kudos to the governor and he has given directive that anything that has to do with health must be given top priority; their entitlements, equipment and their work environment.
We found out that their union which is supposed to understand and enlighten members more about the group’s aim is also falling short because of the prevailing circumstances.
Therefore, my committee’s intervention as a parliament include bringing the leadership of the state’s Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to the House of Assembly for Mr. Speaker’s intervention on three occasions and we have extracted commitments from them only for them to go back and rescind on what we have agreed on.
We will continue to intervene. They have even promised that by the end of this month, we will have cause to smile in my dialogue with the leadership.
OSDF: As the Chairman House Committee on Health, have you sponsored or supported any health related bill?
Ogunsola: Yes! OSACA Bill was from me but I allowed Dr. Atolagbe, a member of my committee to make it a private bill. What is more important to me and the government is that health care should be delivered adequately at the local level.
We also have the State Primary Health Care Development Bill for the establishment of the State of Osun Primary Health Care Development Board which was graciously signed into law by the governor last year. Despite the paucity of funds, the Osun government paid N21 million counterpart fund to the NPHCDA so that our children could be immunized to prevent the childhood killer diseases.
We have made a lot of resolutions, some of which have led to the rehabilitation of the nine state hospitals in all the three senatorial districts in the state.
The one thing that is germane to me is that of preventable diseases. From day one, I have made sure that all the local governments benefitted maximally from it. There are other ones we have done that we did not need to sponsor a bill to make resolutions but we did it through our oversight functions. It has helped the state and the House of Assembly.
O’Ambulance has done well and it is a pride to Osun. Through them, many lives have been saved by their emergency interventions.