By Busayo Onijala
Lagos, Aug. 20, 2020 The Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, says the health sector remains a critical economic driver of any state or government.
Abayomi disclosed this during the August webinar of the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce on Thursday in Lagos.
The theme of the virtual event is: Future of the Nigerian Healthcare Industry.
The commissioner while discussing lessons learnt from the outbreak of the COVID-19 and the way forward, said that the pandemic had drawn the attention of all to the weakness of the health sector.
He noted that apart from the pandemic exposing a lot of deficiencies, it also came as a blessing in disguise.
The commissioner said that the global health challenge had also prompted the sector to go back to the drawing board to improve on existing conditions.
According to him, there is an absolute necessity to review some of the policies that were in place before the outbreak of the virus.
“COVID-19 has done a number of things such as triggering the need for digital health care inventory management for logistics.
“It has also necessitated the need to use modern technology to deliver health care in more ways than the traditional ones.
“But it is also important that we pay attention to the protection of personal data, because a lot of people are jumping on the bandwagon of digital health telemedicine and not paying attention to the data protection regulations.
“The Ministry of Health in Lagos State is taking the protection of personal data extremely seriously and we are not tolerating any errors,” he said.
The commissioner explained that the state was trying to move away from the paradigm, that the Federal Government must be solely responsible for health care delivery within a state.
“We are trying to interface with public-private partnerships because we recognise the importance of the private sector.
“We are also very keen on developing specialised economic zones within the health sector, by making the environment attractive to investments from around the world,” he said.
Also speaking, Dr Ola Brown, Founder, Flying Doctors Healthcare Investment Group, said to change the healthcare in Nigeria, the sector needed to be seen as a business.
Brown citing the example of Cuba, a country with less than 12 million people, stated that the role of the private sector in healthcare could not be overemphasised.
“Healthcare is a great sector to invest in, especially, in a country like Nigeria.
“In the Cold War years, Cuba began using its doctors as a diplomatic tool, to overcome political isolation and they are doing very well at it.
“If we change the way we look at healthcare system, we will find a lot of hidden opportunities,” she said.
Dr Richard Ajayi, Chairman, Board of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said strategic approaches were needed to run the industry adequately.
He noted that a sizeable amount of supplies needed to be domesticated in addition to the use of technology.
“It is not surprising that we have not been able to accelerate growth in the healthcare sector and this is because we have not improved on the utilisation of the limited resources we have.
“In building pandemic readiness into our infrastructure, telemedicine has a huge role to play,” Ajayi said