The Federal Government has rejected a bill of the House of Representatives, seeking free healthcare services for children in the country, citing the present state of the economy.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, at a public hearing in Abuja by the House Committee on Healthcare Services, explained that with the current realities of economic challenges confronting Nigeria, it would be difficult to have free healthcare services for children.
Instead of adopting free medical services, Ehanire who was represented by the Director/Head of Department, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Zainab Shariff said, “There should be more public enlightenment to get every child enrolled in the National Health Insurance Scheme, the Community Based Health Insurance Scheme, the State Health Insurance Scheme —which provides healthcare service at subsidised rates”.
Meanwhile, the government also rejected four other bills.
Ehanire noted that the establishment of institutions as contained in some of the other four bills, would duplicate functions of existing institutions and increase the cost of governance.
The bills sought the establishment of agencies and some amendments to some existing laws affecting the operational mandates of some agencies under the ministry.
Ehanire said the bill to establish the Public Health Practitioners Council of Nigeria would be in conflict with the Acts, which established the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency and the African Institute of Public Health Practitioners.
On the bill to establish a minimum standard for healthcare facilities, he said the ministry had done much to establish minimum standards for healthcare facilities through various means.
He also argued that the bill to establish a decontamination centre in each of the 36 states and the FCT would increase the cost of governance.
Speaking further, the health minister said the bill to establish the Nigerian Food Vendors Regulatory Agency would overlap with existing government agencies and other extant laws.
Earlier, while declaring the hearing open, Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, represented by the Deputy Chief Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha said the bills and motions reflected the importance the house placed on public health and conditions of service of health workers.
He said stakeholders should consider the possibility of achieving the bills’ objectives without imposing additional obligations on public finance.