Community pharmacists raise concerns over Lagos health insurance scheme



Ahead of the rollout of statewide health insurance scheme in Lagos, community pharmacists have said failure to accommodate all relevant healthcare practitioners in its operations would impede its success.

The pharmacists, under the aegis of Association of Community Pharmacists (ACPN), Lagos branch, in fact, warned against the scheme’s operational guideline going the way of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) that failed to specify the roles of various practitioners in its implementation.

Chairman of ACPN Lagos, Biola Paul-Ozieh, said though the NHIS had good intention and currently promoted among the community pharmacists, but its silence on the role of pharmacists, as the professionals saddled with drugs dispensary, has led to their almost non-existence in the scheme of things.

Paul-Ozieh, who spoke at the Annual General Meeting of the association, said her members, as the crop of health professionals closest to the grass roots, eagerly await the roll-out of the guidelines for the implementation of the scheme, in the “hope that Lagos State will learn from the faltering implementation of NHIS at the federal level and avoid pitfalls that may mar the implementation of the scheme in Lagos.”

It would be recalled that Lagos State signed the health bill, otherwise called: “Lagos State Health Management Agency Bill 2015” into law at the twilight of the last administration. The current administration has since set machinery in motion to work out the details of the health insurance, with substantial sum of the Y2016 budget already committed to the scheme ahead of its planned roll out later this year.

The community pharmacists, among other relevant stakeholders have been invited to make submissions towards a hitch-free implementation phase. The ACPN, however, observed that the document appears to have sidetracked the pharmacy component like the NHIS did.

Paul-Ozieh said: “We have seen the gazette and it has some flaws in it. One thing I can say for certain is that Lagos State will be making a mistake if it follows the style of the NHIS. Just like the NHIS has suffered a lot of setbacks, any attempt of Lagos to follow their mistakes and try to implement it here will backfire.”

Continuing, she said: “The healthcare sector is multidisciplinary, having various professionals working as a team. Because there are various practitioners, they must be allowed to play their role as they have been trained to do. The doctors to do diagnosis and prescribe; the pharmacists to dispense and distribute drugs; the laboratory scientists to investigate and provide results; nurses to provide nursing care. This is the type of thing that Lagos State health bill should accommodate in their operational guideline. Anything short of this will not augur well for the health bill.

“All in all, it is good initiative and worth commending. We implore the state government, health commissioner and others concern to workout this scheme properly that an average Lagosian can benefit from it,” she said.

Chairman of the Health Providers Association of Nigeria (HCPAN) in Lagos, Dr. Ademola Aina, said despite the grey areas, the insurance scheme has a lot of benefits for all, including the community pharmacists.

Aina urged the pharmacists to endure the pains of registering with the NHIS and adequately prepare selves for the take off of the Lagos State insurance scheme.

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