By Aaron Ossai
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has stressed that access to healthcare is one of the major concerns of the present government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking when he received the executive members of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) in his office, he said this is in recognition of the responsibility of government to ensure that the overall welfare of its citizens is catered for.
“For us, the welfare of our citizens is the number one priority of government. When we talk about welfare, you have to be healthy first before you can pursue any other thing; whether you are in school, whether you are in a religious organisation, whatever you do in contributing to the work of democracy, if you are not healthy, you can’t do that work. So, health comes before any other thing.
“There is no nation that will be healthier than the total sum of the health of its citizens and so this is a priority. And as a responsible government which has pride itself on grassroots support, we will have to ensure that our base in the grassroots are well taken care of.
“For us to do that, obviously, we have to take care of the doctors that are sacrificing so much in order to bring succour to the people,” he stated.
Addressing demand for more funding for the health sector, Dogara said though yearly budgets show an increase in figures, the value of the money has fallen, meaning there isn’t enough to fund all projects of government.
He urged them to be innovative to attract medical tourists to Nigeria and save money from people who patronise hospitals abroad, adding that the present government is focused on providing infrastructure that will stimulate growth in all sectors of the country, leading to more economic activities and improved revenue for government to deploy for development.
The Speaker also disclosed that the bill seeking for a Cancer Fund to support treatment of indigent citizens is in the legislative mill and will soon be passed by the National Assembly.
While congratulating the new executive committee of NARD, he assured that the House of Representatives will continue to support them. He also updated them on the outcome of their request for improved welfare of doctors in state teaching hospitals, saying President Buhari gave his word that bailout will be provided for states which have issues with meeting up with their responsibilities to doctors.
Earlier, president of NARD, Dr Chinaka Ugochukwu thanked the Speaker for his timely intervention in the strike action by doctors in 2016, and the MoU drawn from the meeting he held with them. He said the MoU formed the basis of their negotiations with the executive, with about 90 percent of what was captured in it been implemented by government.
He urged the Speaker to use his good offices to promote the welfare of doctors in the country, while notifying him of his selection as an ambassador of doctors in the country.
Some of the requests made by NARD include improved welfare for doctors in state teaching hospitals, improved funding for health sector, passage of the Residency Bill as well as funding, establishment of a Cancer Care Fund, provision of adequate facilities, equipment in the medical field, funding of exchange programmes for doctors and thorough oversight by the relevant National Assembly committees to ensure that funds released for equipment of hospitals are appropriately utilised.