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Buhari promises health sector reform, elongate COVID-19 taskforce tenure

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

President Muhammadu Buhari has promised to initiate a major reform in the country’s health sector and re-direct the medical tourism flow towards minimizing the drain on Nigeria’s foreign exchange annually.

Buhari, meanwhile, has extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19  till the end of March, 2021, following the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines.

The President, who disclosed these on Tuesday in Abuja while receiving the End-of-Year Report of the task force led by its chairman, Boss Mustapha, described the current state of the health sector as being at variance with investments made over the years by both public and private sectors.

He noted that the state of the sector was the reason for the reform which would ensure that Nigeria has required trained manpower to treat its citizens whenever the need arises.

“There is still more work to be done in the health sector to help us cater to our citizens and minimize the drain on our foreign exchange and trained manpower through medical tourism.

“For Nigeria to enjoy a lasting legacy from the huge investment in the health sector, a comprehensive Health Sector Reform that will achieve the following amongst others must be instituted”, he added

Buhari noted that the objective of the reforms were to further ensure that the country both the human and institutional capacity to provide a world-class 21st-century health care system, capable of responding effectively to future pandemics;

According to him, the reform will aid the development of a viable strategy for our primary and tertiary healthcare system and re-align institutional mandates and functions within the health sector for effectiveness and efficiency;

Buhari added that during the reform, policies, and coordination from implementation responsibilities and strengthen the statutory and regulatory capacities within the health sector.

On PTF, he said: “recent reports reaching me indicate that Nigeria is now facing a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases nationwide which is similar to the second wave of infections occurring in other countries across the world.

“New epicentres have been identified and the nation cannot afford to lose the gains of the last nine months. I have critically evaluated the situation and remain convinced that urgent measures have to be taken to halt the spread and the attendant fatalities.

“Closely associated with the foregoing is the need to speedily and strategically access and administer the COVID vaccine in a safe, effective, and timely manner. This is an important obligation that we owe Nigerians as we go into year 2021 and it must be carried out through efficient machinery.

“The nation is clearly in a perilous situation given the virulent nature of this second wave and we must act decisively to protect our people. I therefore urge all sub-national entities, traditional rulers, religious and leaders of thought to collaborate with the PTF by taking up the responsibility for risk communication and community engagement at all levels. Now is the time for collective efforts to be intensified.

“As the festive season approaches, I urge all Nigerians to remain vigilant and stay safe. Non-essential trips and large social gatherings should be avoided or shelved completely”.

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