The Coalition of Societies for the Rights of Older Persons in Nigeria (COSROPIN) has called on the Federal Government to review its response to the healthcare needs of older persons in the country.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Abuja, the president of the Coalition, Senator Eze Ajoku, said that so much is said, but less is of any practical need to the healthcare of senior citizens.
According to him, “what we see today with COVID-19 amongst older persons is the result of cumulative lack of healthcare and the neglect of health issues of older persons.”
Ajoku bemoaned the inability of the Federal Government to redeem its pledges on improving healthcare for the older persons despite calls to fast track the planned actions and the presidential directive on healthy aging.
He recalled the promise by Senator Adeleke Olorunnimbe Mamora “that six Regional Geriatric Centres will be established in tertiary hospitals in Nigeria with a view to improving the healthcare status of older persons in Nigeria,” as one of those pledges.
Ajoku noted that based on the Health Bill as approved by the President, “the approval of one per cent of the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) to deliver healthcare to the vulnerable was a huge relief and gave hope that older persons would soon be provided with medical health insurance.
“Our understanding was that 50 per cent of this fund was to be given to the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to procure health services and insurance for the vulnerable groups.
“By now, all Nigerians over 70 years are supposed to be on National Health Insurance.”
He expressed worry over the non-implementation of the policies, but noted that the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire had assured a full implementation of the President’s agenda in the healthcare sector, after he launched the Elder Friendly Hospital Initiative, at the University of Benin on March 9.
The president of the coalition welcomed the ongoing review of the operational manual of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to accommodate the provisions of affordable health insurance through the NHIS gateway, which will ensure that “all senior citizens from 70 years of age and beyond are covered in the scheme for the rest of their lives.
“The Ministry also expressed commitment that they are working with the National Pension Commission (NPC), Pension Transitional Arrangement Directorate (PTAD) and NHIS to ensure that formal sector retirees retain the benefits of their NHIS up to 70 years before switching over to the National non-Contributory Health Insurance Scheme.”
Ajoku expressed support for alternative therapies in the care of the elderly and urged the health ministry to recognise the contribution of traditional and alternative medicine in its health package, especially for the elderly in the present COVID-19 pandemic.