Health financing: NMA, CBN in talks to scale up funding

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In its effort to ensure that lack of access to credit and capital investments is a thing of the past, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to create the necessary conduits and environment for medical personnel to access favourable loans.

This according to the NMA will enable those who want to set up private hospitals and outfits to have access to favourable loans, and eradicate the constraints to the improvement of the private health sector in country.

This was disclosed by the President of the NMA, Dr. Francis Faduyile, during the association’s visit to the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, yesterday in Abuja.

According to him, “The Lack of access to credit and capital investments has consistently been found to represent one of the main constraints to the improvement of the private health sector in Nigeria.

“Access to finance becomes further complicated with high costs of borrowing, short tenor of loans and high currency risk. The conditions of lending virtually exclude assisting young doctors who do not have established clientele and require three to five years to build a practice.

“Female entrepreneurial doctors eager to provide services especially to mothers and children find it hard to do so. Doctors in hard to reach areas and conflict afflicted zones are unable to do so due to the prevailing conditions in these areas. Most of the providers who have established their own businesses have done so through personal and family savings”.

He therefore urged the CBN to help in the creation of a Health Bank like the Bank of Agriculture (BOA) which will further increase access to funds to catalyze the needed development and upgrade in health facilities and equipment.

“We have also discussed this issue of the Health Bank with His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, during our courtesy visit to the State House on the 16th July, 2019 and through many other communiqués.

“Also, there is need for the creation of a health specific window in the following instruments – Micro Small Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDEF) and the Real Sector Support Facility (RSSF). Until recently, these instruments were not available to the health sector. However, we urge you to create further incentives to catalyze the much needed investments in the health sector.

“We ask that the CBN work with both the Development Bank Of Nigeria (DBN) and the Bank Of Industry (BOI) to support the demand and supply sides of healthcare financing.

“Innovative use of First-loss and FOREX guarantees could also be explored to allow the lowering of perceived risk of health-sector specific loan portfolios of commercial banks.

“Lastly, we ask the CBN to support the setting up of at least three centers of excellence in different specialties in Nigeria. We are glad to note that the AFRIEXIM Bank will be building a world class cancer center in Abuja with construction set to commence in the next few weeks,” he said.

The CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, however, advised the NMA to partner with financial institutions that will interface with it on their behalf because there is no way the NMA and the apex bank can have direct interventions. He also noted that some health institutions have followed that approach and have had billions of Naira released to them for the upgrade of their facility and equipment.

While embracing the idea for the creation of a Health Bank, the CBN Governor noted that its creation will be in phases, just as Bank of Industry and Bank of Agriculture started with interfacing with banks before they eventually developed into full fledged banks. He said the creation of a Health Bank will be the end goal.

A five-man committee has been set up by the NMA following its meeting with the CBN. Members of the committee include: Dr. Fatima Zara Mairami, Dr. Usman Galadima, Dr. Olumide Okunola, Dr. Ike Odo, and Dr. Chito Nwana.

A member of the committee, Dr. Fatima Zara Mairami, said: “This is a process that will ultimately lead to the creation of a health bank. Maybe after decades it can evolve into a health bank. Even the BOA and BOI started with favourable loans and later evolved when they became strong enough”.