A popular saying goes, “Health is Wealth” and as much as that is self explanatory, people always overlook the fact that in Health, every little thing matters from our decision to seek care on time, to our attitude towards Alcohol, the food we consume and importantly, the policies of government on health.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigerians and indeed Cross Riverians wish our health system and infrastructure are as perfect as we see in Hollywood or foreign movie productions(this we deserve) but fail to support and see through some very vital policy and legislative framework of Government partly due to the failure in the full implementation of some Health policies and regulatory frameworks by Government. However, there is a wind of positive change blowing in this regard and there is need for Cross Riverians to see through it, that is why this peek into the future is necessary.
Imagine these two situations; First, a woman in Labor in Calabar South visits a nearby medical facility where complications arise and she needs medical attention which is way above her income and because she cannot raise the sum, dies or better still she resorts to a prayer house or Traditional birth attendant and loses her life and that of her baby in the process.
The Second is of a petty farmer whose family’s annual income is less than 50,000 Naira and is diagnosed of Cancer but receives treatment in a state of the art medical facility in the state free of charge because she and her family are enrolled in with “Ayadecare” (State Health Insurance Scheme). Too good to be true? well let us wait and see.
The health sector in Cross River State has not had a smooth ride, a common phenomenon with every other sector. However, the health pyramid starting at its base, the Primary Health System to the Tertiary and advanced tertiary is currently receiving a boost.
The challenges plaguing the sector range from the failure in the implementation of the Alma Ata declaration of the 70’s and several other health policies which almost degenerated to a riot of sort as basic health care (like care for uncomplicated malaria, skin rashes etc)was now provided by tertiary facilities due to the lack of quality primary health care services for the over 70% of our population living in the rural areas, the decay in infrastructure, lack of human resources among other reasons, which inverted the pyramid.
The journey to surmounting these challenges began in 2011 following the passage of the State Primary Health Bill which came with some congenital malformations, though not implemented, helped organized the system in a structure that positioned it for efficiency.
5 years later, we now have a fully functional State Primary Health Care Development Agency with a view to position the state to benefit fully from the provisions in the National Primary Health Care act and revert the health pyramid to sit on its base (meaning the primary health care centers will handle most of the illnesses in the community with special cases going to the secondary and tertiary health institutions).
Recently, the Federal Government lauded the state’s performance in the implementation of the “Primary Health Care Under One Roof Policy” announcing that Cross River was far ahead of other states despite receiving almost the least allocation from the central coffers and called on other states to emulate us!. The current health team headed by the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade, his wife, Dr. Linda Ayade, the health commissioner, Dr. Inyang Asibong and yours faithfully Dr. Betta Edu upon assumption of offices, folded sleeves and set out straight to work to ensure that despite the negative economic indices, Cross Riverians get the maximum available, in terms of effective, affordable and quality health care services with a true Negro-Anthropological drive of a brother providing a shoulder for his brother, to lean on.
How? Cross River State currently has 1,013 Primary Health Care facilities built by Government, Communities and Concerned individuals over the years and with the coming of the agency, the state is better positioned to access the National Primary Health Fund, including the USD1.5 million and several other intervention funds(although the funds have not been given to the state yet) but when received will go a long way in giving these facilities a face-lift, provide drugs, hire skilled health workers and provide quality health services 24 hours.
The secondary and tertiary institutions are not left out as the “Ayadecare” (State Health Insurance Scheme) law which has just been assented to by the proactive and pro-health Governor Ayade which is a replica of the National Health Insurance Scheme with modifications that makes the financial burden so minimal that some elites and stakeholders think the premium is too small as such must be a joke.
The scheme will see all Cross Riverians subscribe with a minimal fee of 1,000 Naira per month, that is 12,000 per annum, yet will have access to quality Medicare. The state plans to really turn the state into a medical tourism haven of which discussions are ongoing with investors and partners across the globe.
The plan to achieve Universal Health Coverage by the end of 2017 is well on course and with the support of Cross Riverians, it will be achieved. That will be another landmark achievement for a state known to blaze the trail which is currently been led by a trailblazer. The scheme will also go a long way to aid in the reduction or maternal mortality by 15 percent in the next 2 years.
Cross Riverians are known for warmth, hospitality and care. The plans of the current administration in the health sector will eventually lead us to have that Health System we see in foreign movie productions, or at least close to it. But, Cross Riverians need to see through it, ask questions and seek clarifications and not outrightly condemn policies, white papers or regulatory frameworks of government because of trivial sentiments.
If every Cross Riverian within and outside Cross River State put in 1,000 Naira, every politician empower their ward members by paying for their health bills, 1,000 Naira per month, if we all work at this, success will be achieved. It is beyond the government, its beyond party affiliations, it is for our people by our people!
The future is bright for Health in Cross River State. There are still challenges, especially in the area of funding, equipment and perception of Cross Riverians in the grassroots on accessing healthcare. But, together we can achieve that health sector of our dream. With Ayadecare, INDEED AYADE CARES!!!
Betta Edu is the maiden Director General of the Cross River State Primary Health Care Development Agency
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