The proposed N262.74billion budget for the health sector in 2014 has received criticism from health experts, following a 6.7 percent decrease against the 2013 allocation.
While the sector got N273billion in 2013, a peep into the 2014 budget proposal presently before the National Assembly, shows that the sector is to receive N262.74billion, with N216.4billion (82.38%) earmarked for recurrent expenditure and N46.3bn (17.62%) for capital expenditure.
Osahon Enabulele, President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said that with about 80 percent of the proposed 2014 budget earmarked for recurrent expenditure (personnel and overheads), Nigerians should not expect much from the health sector, bearing in mind that less than 20 percent is targeted towards capital expenditure, investment in health infrastructure, as well as research and development.
Enabulele stated that with an average annual budgetary allocation of 5 to 6 percent to health and no attempt at resuscitating the public healthcare financing system, healthcare delivery would remain a scarce social service, with over 70 percent of Nigerians unable to have financial access to hospitals as a result of high out-of-pocket payment for medicare.
“The nation’s bid to ensure that Nigerians have access to quality healthcare is worrisome, giving the inadequate budgetary allocation to the sector, which has greatly affected effective healthcare delivery. While the Abuja Declaration by African Heads of States in 2000 agreed to devote 15 percent of national budgets to fund healthcare, the sector has typically enjoyed an average of 5 to 6 percent from Nigeria’s national budget.
“Though analyses of recent trends show that Nigeria is making progress in cutting down infant and under-five mortality rates, achieving the Millennium Development Goals of reducing child mortality by a third by 2015 and driving improved healthcare is in doubt, if nothing is done to ensure massive investment in infrastructure, expansion and upgrade of medical facilities, research and development, human capital development, etc.
These are capital expenditure that government needs to pump more money into. No doubt,a rethinking is needed in this light,” Enabulele said.
Olumide Atintayo, President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, (PSN), expressed displeasure over what the budget translates to each fiscal year, giving huge personnel and overhead costs.
Akintayo complained that there is capital flight running into several billions of Naira by Nigerians who travel abroad for medical check-up. He further said that with Nigeria’s pharmaceutical sector yet to become a hub in Africa,it was worrisome that the budgetary allocation to the sector decreased this fiscal year.
A breakdown of the proposed 2014 budget reveals that N15.497 bn is allocated to the Ministry of Health Headquarters, of which N9.109 billion and N6.387bn are earmarked for total capital and recurrent expenditure respectively.
Further details of the Appropriation Bill indicate the Health Ministry is to spend the sum of N9.109 billion for the construction/provision of hospitals/health centres. The sum of N115 million is to be spent on HIV/AIDS control, N213.321 million on cancer control and N85.653 million on malaria control.
The ministry’s project on HIV/AIDS control comprises expansion of access to treatment; care and support to people living with HIV; establishment, assessment and upgrading of additional 100 sites nationwide and HIV test kits.
Highlights of projects and programmes lined up in 2014 include operational costs for distribution of long lasting insecticide treated bed nets and integrated vector management of malaria.
The cancer control comprises purchase of mobile cancer screening vans and support for radiotherapy, nuclear medicine activities of tertiary hospitals, baseline data survey for cancer burden and ionising, and radiation activities in federal health institutions.
The proposed Bill reveals introduction of new projects by the ministry. These include implementation of e-health policy (N80.708 million); procurement of narcotic drugs (N32. 6 million); diseases eradication and control programmes (N88.224 million) support for nursing services and midwifery scheme (N246.869 million); national demographic and health survey (N55.264 million); port health service (N50.356 million), to mention a few.
By: Alexander Chiejina