By Jonathan Ugbal and Elijah Ugani: Health Correspondent
The Cross River State council of the Trade Union Congress has called on the Cross River State government to pay the NGN250 million seed fund promised by the governor, Senator Ben Ayade during the launch of the state’s health insurance scheme.
The chairman, Comrade Clarkson Otu made the call at a capacity building workshop for the Nigeria Labor Congress and Trade Union Congress by USAID Health Financing and Governance held recently in Calabar.
“How can a government that is committed and determined to implement a program of this magnitude wait for deduction of civil servants salary to commence the program,” Otu said.
“We demand to know how much of the seed fund promised by the Governor during the launch of the scheme has been released and also the one percent consolidated budget for 2018 has been released for the scheme to be operational,” the labor leader added.
The social health insurance scheme was launched on May 28, 2018 about 20 months after it was signed into law and the governor, Senator Ben Ayade in his remarks at the flag off donated NGN200 million on behalf of the state, NGN50 million on behalf of his family.
Also, He had commended federal and state lawmakers for offering to subscribe for 500 persons in each of their political wards, while noting that the scheme will take care of the very poor in the society.
And, Mr. Otu’s comments comes on the heels of a similar position taken by the Nigerian Labor Congress led by Comrade John Ushie.
Mr. Ushie had in a similar fora in July, said that: “When you want to start any project, you have to start something to really show that you are serious, for this scheme to really work, the State Governor has to release the seed fund he pronounced during the launch of the scheme to build confidence on the enrollees.
“It is not just an issue of asking people to come and enroll, Government needs to show commitment in all ramifications, we want that seed fund released. When this is done, we will be able to take a lift from Government action.”
The State’s council of the Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees also shares the same stance.
The President, Comrade Godwin Ayendi told CrossRiverWatch in an exclusive interview that the union will resist deductions in the guise of health insurance until the system shows that it works well.
However, Mr. Otu commended the resilience of the United State’s Agency for International Development (USAID) Health Financing and Government (HFG) interest in promoting universal health coverage in the state and noted that the amount of money they have spent in training stakeholders across the state and the advocacy drive is worthwhile.
He raised other concerns including a plea to make available to the public, the law establishing the state health insurance agency in order to aid citizens track the activities of the agency as well as understand the modalities involved in the discharge of its function.
He said the lack of that information was having its impact already as deduction from civil servants salary has met stiff resistance.
Earlier, a USAID HFG consultant, Dr. Janet Ekpeyong explained that the workshop sought to ensure that the organised labor understand the concept of health financing.
She said the sensitisation of the organised labor on the operations for effective implementation of the Cross River Health Insurance Scheme will aid in their convincing them to buy into Ayadecare.
“Health insurance is a sustainable means of health financing and a vehicle to achieve universal health coverage, which is the global focus. The role of NLC, TUC and other organised union members in the success of this scheme can not be over emphasized and so the need for this sensitization.
“The reservations by NLC, TUC and other organized Union members about the scheme is key and we hope that after this sensitization, the unions will see the need for a buy in,” Ekpenyong said.
The Special Adviser on Health Insurance Scheme, Chief Godwin Iyala in his remarks noted that insurance is a risk in itself, and with health been a social function of government, universal health coverage the world over must be compulsory to ensure effectiveness.
He assured that as soon asenrollmentr commences, the vulnerable will be the first set of those to begin with.
Also, he commended the effort of the USAID HFG so far which he said included the training stakeholders in 2016; contributing to the drafting and the passage of the bill into law; constitution as well as inauguration of the technical working group and training of the technical working group.
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