The Bishop Chairman of the Health Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), Most Rev. Gabriel Dunia has called on government to be more proactive in health care delivery service by partnering with other stakeholders to enhance the country’s health sector.
Bishop Dunia made the call at a press conference held in Abuja, recently, on the state of the country’s health sector and the role of the Catholic Church as a major provider of the important service for Nigerians, particularly, in the rural areas where government services cannot be accessed by the masses.
The bishop also used the occasion to brief the media on the proposed first National Catholic Health Summit taking place in Abuja in October 23 -24; to commemorate 120 years of caring for Nigerians by the Church in the country.
Speaking on the contribution of the Catholic Church to health care delivery in the country, which according to him dates back to 1895, with the establishment of the Sacred Heart Hospital, Lantoro, Abeokuta, Ogun State; Bishop Dunia said: “From the reverrine villages of Egbaland, the Church’s medical mission has expanded and extended to other parts of Nigeria – to Waterside, Onitsha, Emekuku, Ihiala, Lokoja, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Ibadan, and all over the country.” He added: ‘As you can see the Catholic health services pioneered formalized health care efforts in Nigeria.”
The bishop continued: “The health care we provide is a continuation of the healing ministry of Jesus Christ our Redeemer are accessible to all Nigerians, irrespective religion, tribe, social status or political affiliation.” He added; ‘More importantly, the Church’s health care is positioned to serve citizens especially those at the margins of society – the poor and disadvantaged, person with disabilities, the aged, the abandoned and persons with stigma conditions (lepers, people living with HIV/AIDS, teenage pregnant girls, etc).
While calling for constructive engagement by government with other non- state actors in the health sector, the Catholic Bishop of Auchi advocated shift in paradigms in order to assure improved health outcomes for all Nigerians.
He noted among other things, the absence of policy frame work which reckons with the substantial contributions by the Catholic health services, other faith based entities and non-governmental organizations to the country’s health system. Also identified was the absence of “Funding Window by governments for delivering predictable support to mission and not-for-profit organizations providing health care services for Nigerians.”
Bishop Dunia therefore outlined areas where government should take proactive steps to enhance health care delivery service in the country. According to him: “The national health Bill and all other similar initiatives of government ought to recognize and respect the moral, religious and cherished cultural values of the Nigerian peoples; while laws which negate the intrinsic rights and freedom of Nigerians to life and its protection from conception to natural death should never be entertained under any guise.”
He also urged government to engage the Catholic Church and other faith-based health systems as important partners in all health policy dialogues, programme designs and their implementations. Government was also told to include Natural Family Planning education and services in the disbursement plan of the budget already allocated to family planning commodities and logistics while the National Assembly was urged “to enact a legislation to establish formal frameworks for providing budgetary allocations to non-state providers of health care delivery, especially those working in the rural areas and non profitable spheres.”
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