As part of its efforts to cushion the effect of COVID-19 on the health sector, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disbursed over N83.9 billion to pharmaceutical companies, healthcare practitioners and health projects across the country.
Governor of the apex bank, Godwin Emefiele, disclosed this yesterday while speaking at the premiere of ‘Unmasked’, a documentary on Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos. Emefiele stressed the need to reduce out-of-pocket expenses and increase investment opportunities in the healthcare sector by expanding the base of families and individuals covered under existing health insurance schemes.
Emefiele who was represented by the director of, Corporate Communications Department of the CBN, Osita Nwasinobi, noted that building a robust healthcare infrastructure is vital from a security perspective.
He said, “As a result, we focused our interventions in the health care sector on three areas; Building the capacity of our healthcare institutions supporting the domestic manufacturing of drugs by businesses, and providing grants to researchers in the medical field, in order to encourage them to develop breakthrough innovations that would address health challenges faced by Nigerians.
“In this regard, we disbursed over N83.9 billion in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners, which is supporting 26 pharmaceutical and 56 medical projects across the country.
“We were also able to mobilise key stakeholders in the Nigerian economy through the CACOVID alliance, which led to the provision of over N25 billion in relief materials to affected households, and the set-up of 39 isolation centers across the country. These measures helped to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
He added that CBN also initiated the healthcare sector research and development intervention grant scheme to aid research on solutions that would address diseases such as COVID-19 and other communicable/non-communicable diseases.
On access to health insurance, he said, “One key aspect which we would have to address is improving access to healthcare for all Nigerians. A key factor that has impeded access to healthcare for Nigerians is the prevailing cost of healthcare services. According to a study by World Health Organisation (WHO), only four per cent of Nigerians have access to health insurance.
“Aside from food, healthcare expenses are a significant component of average Nigeria’s personal expenditure. Out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare amount to close to 76 percent of total healthcare expenditure. At such levels of health spending, individuals, particularly those in rural communities, may be denied access to healthcare services.”
“Expanding the insurance net to capture the pool of Nigerians not covered by existing health insurance schemes could help to reduce the high out-of-pocket expenses on healthcare services by Nigerians. It will also help to increase the pool of funds that could be invested in building our healthcare infrastructure and in improving the existing welfare package of our healthcare workers.”
“The private sector has a significant role to play in this regard given the decline in government revenues as occasioned by the drop in commodity prices. Leveraging innovative solutions that can provide insurance services at relatively cheap prices could significantly help to improve access to healthcare for a large proportion of Nigerians, particularly those in our rural communities.” He further stressed the need for heightened support in research and development in healthcare.
The CBN governor continued: “The CACOVID alliance which reflected significant collaboration between the private and public sector in not only improving access to healthcare services but also in disseminating information to the general public on useful measures that should be taken to curb the spread of the virus, played an instrumental role in aiding Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Leveraging capital from the private sector to complement efforts by the government in supporting innovations in the healthcare space can bring immense benefits to our nation.”
“Given the challenges our nation faced as a result of the pandemic, it is indeed vital that all stakeholders work to build the capacity of our researchers and institutions to address domestic health care challenges. Strengthening collaboration and partnerships between researchers, public as well as private sector stakeholders across the country is crucial in enabling Nigeria to build a more robust and proactive healthcare infrastructure system.”
Accordingly, he assured that the CBN remains committed to working with all stakeholders in improving access to finance and credit that would support the development of viable healthcare infrastructure in the country.