OrderPaperToday – The Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, has opposed a proposed agency on sickle cell and plans to establish a new Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Yola, Adamawa State.

The minister’s position was in response to two bills health institutions put up for public hearing on Wednesday at the National Assembly.

The bills are: a bill for an “Act to Establish the National Agency For Sickle Cell Disease and other Heritage Blood Disaster for the Treatment, Prevention Control and Management of the Disease in Nigeria.” It is sponsored by Mr. Bamidele Salam (PDP, Osun); and another for the establishment of the Federal Medical Centre, Hong, sponsored by Mr. Yusuf Yakub (APC, Adamawa).

Speaking on the bills, the health minister opposed the bills saying the functions proposed could be accommodated by extant departments and facilities in the ministry.

Specifically, he said said the Department of Public Health within the Federal Ministry of Health, which currently deals with non-communicable diseases, should rather be strengthened to tackle the issue of sickle raised by the bill.

Recall that the senate has recently adopted a similar bill on sickle cell but that the proposed functions be domiciled in the ministry of health.

The minister, who was represented by Director Hospital Services of in the Ministry, Mrs. Adedimpe Adebiyi, stressed the need to improve access to quality healthcare services instead of creating a new agency.

Speaking on the establishment of the Federal Medical Centre Hong, the minister said: “The policy for establishing Federal Medical Centre is for it to be established in States where there are no Federal Teaching Hospitals. Currently, the above policy is accomplished and it is inadvisable for the Federal Government to engage in proliferation of tertiary health institutions”.

However, sponsor of the FMC bill disagreed with the minister, saying, indigenes of the area had in 2019 mobilized health-care infrastructure and equipment from government and the private sector to upgrade an existing health facility which can accommodate the proposed Federal Medical Centre.

“I urge this Honourable Committee to recommend that this multi-million Naira health facility be named a Federal Medical Centre to reflect its new status in order to meet the healthcare needs of an immediate population of 226,100 covering 87.38KM2 and other surrounding Local Government Areas and outside Adamawa State with a population of over 2 million”, he appealed.

Justifying the sickle cell bill, Mr. Salam said that there was no legal framework in Nigeria for the prevention, control and treatment of the disease.

He drew attention to statistics which showed that Nigeria has the highest burden of sickle cell disorder in the world with over 40 million Nigerians as carriers of the sickle cell gene and over 150,000 babies being born with it every year.

He said the bill particularly seeks to: “formulate and implement policies, guidelines and strategies on sickle cell disease and other heritable blood disorders; facilitate the engagement of all tiers of government and all sectors on issues of sickle cell disease and other heritable blood disorders prevention, care and support.

“Advocate for the mainstreaming of sickle cell disease and other heritable blood disorders interventions into all sectors of the country; promote, improve and support research and learning in sickle cell disease and other heritable blood disorders”.

The public hearing was organized by the House Committee on Health Institutions, whose chairman, Mr. Paschal Obi (APC, Imo), said the lives of people suffering from sickle cell disease would be improved when the bill is passed.

While declaring the public hearing open, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said both proposed legislations are in line with the 9th House legislative agenda to make interventions in the health sector.

“We set out a Legislative Agenda that outlined the scope of our governing ambitions…In that document, we made commitments to improve access to healthcare services for all our nation’s people, increase funding for healthcare research, improve the mechanisms for training and providing for our healthcare professionals amongst other things”, Gbajabiamila said.

 

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