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As CBN Pumps N115bn To Boost Healthcare Sector

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Following the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the nation and the revealing of the state of the country’s healthcare system, several efforts have been put in place to direct funding into the sector as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) recently pumped N1.8 billion into the operations of two players in the sector.

The fund came in through the CBN’s 100 for 100 facility which is designed to fund 100 firms within 100 days as part of ways to grow the nation’s productivity and self-reliance levels. Although the 100 for 100 policy is targeted at investments in Nigeria’s manufacturing sector with the core objective of boosting production and productivity, necessary to transform and catalyse the productive base of the economy, the healthcare sector was not left out of the funding.

Mecure Healthcare Limited had received N1.5 billion while Summit Healthcare had gotten N300 million through the 100 for 100 facility. This is in addition to N100 billion intervention fund in loans to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to expand and strengthen the capacity of our healthcare institutions.

Speaking at the end of the Bankers Committee meeting in Abuja last week, the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele had revealed that 122 major healthcare projects have so far been funded to the tune of N115.36 billion.

These healthcare interventions went to 31 pharmaceutical and 91 hospital projects.  This intervention helped to support acquisition of 59 Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners, 42 Computer Tomography (CT) scanners, and four Oncology screening machines.

Three other hospitals, the Prof. Kersley Harrison Hospital, Dental and Maxillofacial Hospital and Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diseases Diagnostics and Treatment Centre had also received N2 billion funding through the interventions.

The CBN’s N100 billion intervention fund for healthcare aims to strengthen the sector’s capacity to meet potential increase in demand for healthcare products and services. The scheme is to provide credit to indigenous pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare value chain players intending to build or expand capacity.

With the global panic that followed the unprecedented onslaught of coronavirus disease, many countries had placed a ban on the exportation of essential and non-essential items including food and drugs. For a country like Nigeria which imports most of its drugs and medical supplies, the impact was much worse with many running out of their medications and prices of medical supplies skyrocketing.

Noting that the apex bank would continue to do whatever can be done to support the healthcare sector in Nigeria, Emefiele said “when intervention on Covid-19 commenced, CBN set aside N100 billion to support the healthcare sector, but upon rise in demand, we had taken up N100 to support but the monetary policy has said we should move it further up to N200 billion.

The intervention fund for the healthcare sector aims to increase private and public investment in the healthcare sector, facilitate improvements in healthcare delivery and reduce medical tourism to enhance foreign exchange conservation.

The CBN Credit support for the Healthcare sector is an on-lending intervention scheme for the Healthcare sector developed as part of the pro-active measures to cushion the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emefiele had earlier noted that medical tourism puts a huge strain on the foreign reserves of the country with over $1 billion allocated to medical treatment abroad. This coupled with the challenges the sector faced in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic had been major factors leading to the facility for the sector.

According to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), about N576 billion ($1.2 billion) is lost to medical tourism yearly in Nigeria, an amount that could have been invested in the health care system. This is just about N100 billion less than the N632.7 billion allocated to the health sector in the FGN 2021 budget.

Speaking at the opening of the Duchess International Hospital in Lagos late last year, the Chairman Reddington Hospital Group Dr. Adeyemi Onabowale had noted that one of the major problems with healthcare in Nigeria is inadequate funding.

Duchess International Hospital, a division of the Reddington Hospital Group is a 72-bed specialist hospital sited on the mainland, and one of the three largest hospitals in Lagos, is a beneficiary of the CBN Healthcare fund. Another beneficiary of the CBN fund is Marcelle Ruth Cancer Centre.

Chairman of the hospital, Bolaji Odunsi, acknowledged the contribution of the CBN and Polaris Bank during its launch in April 2021. “We have been beneficiaries of the Covid-related healthcare intervention fund and in particular we want to mention the support of Polaris Bank who helped us navigate the process. Without them, things would have been a lot more difficult,” Odunsi said.

Assessment of the impact of the fund shows that the health sector has seen players access the fund to alleviate the harsh effects of the pandemic and in fact, set them on a real path of recovery. These interventions in the healthcare sector will not only improve services in the sector but be a major player in reversing medical tourism in the country.

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