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Cautious Optimism as President Signs Health Bill
Date Posted: 11/Dec/2014
… NGOs, experts laud assent
 
Doctors and health workers in Nige­ria may protest the National Health Bill signed into law by Presi­dent Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday.
 
There were apprehen­sions among various unions under which the health professionals oper­ate, shortly after the news of the new law broke out.
 
Leaderships of two of the health workers unions in telephone interviews with National Mirror were hesitant to either praise or condemn the President’s action on the Bill.
 
President, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Ab­dulrafiu Adeniji, said his group would study the law if it embraced contribu­tions from the nurses.
 
His words: “The Health Bill was signed overnight. As a person, and as an or­ganisation, what has hap­pened in Nigeria so far, we don’t trust anybody, until it comes out and we see that the level of engage­ment that we had before it went in is still there. When we see the content, then, we’ll know that may be our agreement, our discussion, our points of disagreements or whatso­ever, if they sustain them, then we will see what to do. If not, then, it still leaves much to be desired.”
 
Similarly, the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, said it had to go through the law before it would react.
 
Secretary-General of the association, Comrade Marcus Omokhuale, told our reporter in a tele­phone interview that the association must be sure if its last contributions into the bill were included in the new law.
 
He said; “We don’t have the details; we don’t know whether it was the last version which the Nation­al Assembly passed that he signed. We need to able to see the full details; we will know whether the in­terventions we made are still there before we start saying something.”
 
Benjamin Anyene, chairman, Health Re­form Foundation of Ni­geria, HERFON, Board of Trustees, said the implementation of the Bill will save the lives of three million women and children over a five-year period.
 
 
Anyene noted that the National Health Bill increases funding, ad­dresses inequities and re­sponds better to the health needs of the population.
 
“With the passage of the Health Bill, health ser­vices will improve. More Nigerians especially the vulnerable group will be able to access quality ser­vices and health status will also improve.” Any­ene said.
 
Reacting to this, The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, has com­mended the president for finally giving his assent to the National Health Bill.
 
In a statement signed by the PSN President, Pharm. Olumide Akin­tayo and made available to National Mirror, the PSN expressed delight over the new version of the National Health Bill.
 
It said, “ this signifies the first time the borders of restriction in health­care was opened as ma­jor health professional associations and trade unions are represented in key structures of the new Health Act.
 
“It is our hope that this seeming progressive doc­ument was not doctored after the harmonised ver­sion was passed at Nation­al Assembly.
 
We also wish that gov­ernment expedites action on the implementation of the Act”, the release said.
 
On his part, the im­mediate past president of Nigeria Medical Associa­tion, NMA, and the Vice President of the Com­monwealth Medical As­sociation (CMA), Dr. Osa­hon Enabulele, expressed delight over the assent by the President.
 
It would be recalled that dissension among health workers and medi­cal practitioners over perceived unfavourable contents to their members in the initial bill, sched­uled to be signed into law by the President in 2010 compelled the President to send the bill back to the National Assembly.
 
There had been fears the new bill could follow similar fate since there was no reaction from the Presidency over the bill within the one month stip­ulated by the constitution for him to sign such bills into law.
 
Such fears were height­ened by increased con­flicts among the ranks of health workers and medi­cal professionals in the country; even though it was assumed that most of them had agreed that the bill be signed by the Presi­dent.
 
by Franka Osakwe and Marcus Fatunmomole 

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