By Hajara Leman, News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)
In spite various health facilities established by successive administrations in Gombe State, accessing healthcare has remained a nightmare in the state, especially for indigent ones.
But the social health programme launched in 2021, by Governor Inuwa Yahaya, known as Gombe State Contributory Healthcare Management Agency, may bring the needed succour.
The mandate of the agency is to ensure the attainment of universal health coverage in the state.
At the initial stage of the programme, 25,000 poor and vulnerable people were enrolled for free healthcare, under the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF), a Federal Government intervention, requiring counterpart funding from the state government.
It was later scaled up to accommodate civil servants from the formal sector, as well as informal sector on the payment of a token amount of money for enrollment.
Since the programme commenced, accessing healthcare has become easier for people, thereby reducing the huge financial burden they usually incurred in accessing medical services.
Recently Yahaya launched GoHealth mobile application, which makes it easier for beneficiaries and intending enrollees to access service in the comfort of their rooms.
“The application is user friendly, safe and secure to enable individuals and groups to enroll on the scheme book.
“Also to book appointment with their care providers, make enquiries as well as provide feedback to enable the government take necessary measures to improve the quality of service”, the Governor noted.
According to him, GoHealth insurance programme is providing Gombe State civil servants with subsidised healthcare services which will subsequently enhance workers’ welfare and improve their productivity.
He said in 2022, the state government will enroll additional 40,000 poor and vulnerable alongside the 25,000 earlier enrolled under BHCPF.
He further called on those that were yet to register under the informal sector, to take advantage of the programme.
“Register yourselves and your loved ones, so as to prevent rising healthcare cost”.
Some of the enrollees of the programme described the scheme as “life saving”.
At the onset when they were asked to speak about the programme, a beneficiary from the Gombe State Contributory Health Scheme, Malam Adamu Zakari said he was not convinced that the scheme was meant for the less privileged. But with the recent development, “I felt I am the most luckiest person on earth”.
He said his 32-year-old wife was admitted at the Federal Teaching Hospital Gombe, where he opted as his service provider for the Gombe State Contributory Health Scheme, and after she spent two days in the hospital, the wife had a successful Cesarean Section (CS).
According to him, the bill given to him after the surgery was scary, adding that, ordinarily, he could not afford it because he is just a middle cadre staff at the Gombe State Civil Service.
However, the story changed when he reached the billing point and was asked to pay N9,400, against the N94,000 on the bill.
Another beneficiary, Malam Zainab Umar, a civil servant, said when the state government commenced the registration of civil servants, she was reluctant to join because she thought it was not real.
According to her, when her pregnancy reached an advanced stage, she needed urgent medical attention and to her greatest surprise, her condition had been taken care of with the limited resources she had been contributing.
“I had a CS and all the diagnosis were perfectly treated. I have gotten my post operational drugs and all the care I needed”, she said.
Malam Habu Musa from Daban Fulani community in Kwami Local Government Area, said his household were among the 25,000 poor and vulnerable persons enrolled at the initial stage of the programme.
He said since their enrolment, they had been receiving quality healthcare free of charge.
“Recently my daughter was discharged from the hospital in our community after spending four days on admission.
“I want to use this medium to thank Governor Inuwa Yahaya for the quality and free healthcare services at our door step”, he said.
Team Lead of GoHealth, Dr Abubakar Musa said the agency was established by state government in 2019.
According to him, the agency was established in line with the decentralisation policy of the National Health Insurance Scheme, that paved way for establishment of states’ Social Health Insurance Scheme in Nigeria.
He said the agency, which commenced work in 2021, has the mandate to ensure attainment of universal health coverage.
Musa said that so far, the agency had enrolled 63,320 persons from the BHCPF, formal and informal sectors and it is expecting more people to be enrolled.
He said for the formal sector, 3.5 per cent of their gross salaries is being deducted monthly for the scheme, covering five dependents per person – spouse and four biological children. Each individual enrolled can however register additional dependent for N9,000 per person.
He said that for the informal sector, the fee is N10,000 for a person per annum, with no dependent.
The Team Lead said the agency has accredited 109 facilities , that would be providing services to beneficiaries.
Out of the number, 52 were primary healthcare facilities, 53 secondary facilities and four tertiary facilities.
He said that GoHealth does not compromise standard.
“We ensure that all the facilities accredited are well equipped, have good infrastructure with basic essential equipment as well as the minimum manpower to provide qualitative healthcare service to people”, he explained.
The Chairman of Maternal Newborn Child Health (MNCH), a coalition of professionals in diverse fields advocating for improvement in maternal health, Malam Alhassan Yahya commended the government for the priority given the health sector.
He expressed optimism that Gombe State would achieve universal health coverage in line with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.
He called on those in the private sector who were yet to register to key in so as to eradicate preventable diseases in their communities.
He further said that the scheme was an opportunity for expectant mothers to have a clean and safe delivery with limited resources, thereby reducing maternal and infant mortality in the state.
On his part, Gombe State Commissioner of Health, Dr Habu Dahiru said the establishment of the agency reinforced government’s commitment toward changing the face of healthcare delivery in the state
“We are all aware of the comprehensive approach this administration is adopting to address the inherited challenges in the health sector by improving both physical as well as financial accessibility to basic health service.
“Introducing such a scheme will no doubt protect individuals and families from financial difficulties, should they have the cause to visit the hospital for medical attention”, he said.