RMNCAEH+N: Health minster tasks development partners on visual technology to enhance telemedicine at PHCs

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has called on state governments, traditional leaders and partners to ensure maximum visibility, prioritise adaptation and adoption, as well as advocate and promote implementation of the Revised National Maternal, Perinatal and Child Death Surveillance and Response, (MPCDSR) and other health policy documents which can promote telemedicine in the short term.

Dr. Ehanire who made the call at the 2022 Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent and Elderly Health plus Nutrition (RMNCAEH+N), bi-annual meeting in Abuja, noted that despite the COVID-19 pandemic setbacks, the ministry and partners developed the tools and policy documents to tackle challenges result from RMNCAEH+N services.

The Minister of Health spoke to various issues affecting health care delivery with resultant effect on health outcomes in Nigeria, underscoring the importance of the policy and strategy documents launched.

He also admonished development partners not to shy away from supporting Nigeria in the aspect of infrastructure development, human resources development and the digital technology that will enhance telemedicine for primary health services in Nigeria.

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“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed policies and strategy documents to respond to these challenges but there will be no reasonable change if these instruments are not disseminated and implemented; again echoing what I have said earlier, we have to take this document and run with it.

“Given our social demographic diversity, some of these policies may need modification at state levels to adapt to local conditions which we fully accept. And I therefore give this call to partners and our leaders and state governments to give these policies the maximum visibility, prioritise adaptation and adoption of these instruments; and advocate and promote implementation of these policies and also to faithfully monitor the implementation.

“And of course there are primary health care centres that are broken, ready to be fixed and we want to implore our development partners to support us with the infrastructure development – do not shy away from infrastructure development – and the human resources to man our primary health care centres and of course with the visual technology we require nowadays to provide services remotely.

“A functional primary health care centre can be very ably supported by a doctor who is faraway; with telemedicine he can provide the guidance they need; you can provide all the advice that not only even a nurse but even a community healthcare worker can use to save a life.

“So technical support, digital support, digital technology is required now for the primary health care and if we do succeed in getting our complement of primary health care centres I believe we would have taken care of 60% to 70% of disease burden in this country.”

The World Health Organisation, (WHO) was represented by a Medical Officer at the Nigeria Country Office, Dr. Martin Joseph, while United Nations Children’s Fund, (UNICEF) was represented by Dr. Peter Baffoe, a Health Manager at the Nigeria Country Office.

While delivering the goodwill messages of their organisations, both representatives applauded the step taken by the Federal Ministry of Health and its partners, and pledged their technical and financial support to the success of the policy documents and tools.

“As WHO we will continue to commit our support, technical and financial to all these areas and to continue our active participation in the technical working group,” Dr. Martins said.

On his part, Dr. Baffoe said “UNICEF believes that all the efforts that are happening, right from Federal level to state level and other sub-national levels to improve the indicators for child and maternal health cannot be achieved Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Adolescent and Elderly Health cannot be achieved without a strong leadership and direction. That is exactly what RMNCAEH provides under the leadership of the Federal Ministry of Health.

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“We commit to support implementation of these documents and work closely with all the technical organisations here, especially professional associations who provide a lot of opportunity for us in the technical sphere to implement these policies and strategies. Please be assured of UNICEF’s commitment to this journey.”

Edo State Commissioner for Health, Prof. Obehi Okoria who spoke on behalf of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum reiterated the commitment of the forum to changing the narrative of poor health indices in Nigeria.

“Having been a member of the Nigeria Commissioners of Health Forum for a number of months, I can testify that we have a group of motivated committed persons who are willing to roll up our sleeves and to do the heavy lifting that is required to take healthcare in Nigeria forward.

“We make this commitment and we trust that in the coming months every one of us will have our hands on deck and our feet on the ground to do all that we need to do.”

Among the policy documents/instruments and strategies launched by the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire were the Revised National Child Health Policy 2022; Revised Maternal, Perinatal and Child Death Surveillance and Response Guidelines and Tool-Kit; National RMNCAEH+N COVID-19 Response Continued Plan; National Strategic Plan for Action for Nutrition 2021-2025; Media Engagement strategy for Health Promotion in Nigeria 2021-2025

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Others are the National Integrated RMNCAEH+N Social and Behavioural Change Communication Strategy; National Training Manual on Peer to Peer Health Education for Adolescent and Young in Nigeria; Social Services and Intra-Social and Reproductive Health and Rights; National Guidelines and Clinical Hand-Book for those who have experienced gender based violence.