Ebonyi flags off access to Insured Healthcare for civil servants

By Oswald Agwu, Abakaliki

Ebonyi State government has flagged off the commencement of access to health care for civil, public servants in the State and their families under the state Health Insurance Scheme.


Recall that Governor Francis Nwifuru had, during the Health Insurance summit held on November 7, 2023 undertaken to pay full premium for all the state civil servants.


The development relieved the workers of the statutory counterpart contribution from their consolidated basic salary to make up the 5% monthly premium required by the scheme.


The access to healthcare flag-off was consequent upon the release of the first tranche of over N37million monthly premium to cover all civil and public servants in the State.


The event was organised by the State Health Insurance Agency with support from the USAID-Integrated Health Program, IHP.


It was held Thursday at the Remeritona Hotel Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital.


Addressing the workers at the event, Governor Francis Nwifuru, admonished them to take advantage of the gesture to take charge of their health and those of their families.


Nwifuru represented at the event by his deputy, Princess Patricia Obila, noted that the State government was concerned about the health and wellbeing of all Ebonyi people.


He emphasized that the present administration has made remarkable investments in the health sector, including the revamping of the 14 General Hospitals across the State, boosting the number of health workers as well as improved welfare for doctors and other health workers in the state.


The Governor assured the workers that all the identified issues raised concerning the health insurance scheme would effectively be addressed to enable it offer excellent healthcare services to the people of the state.


In their separate speeches, the state chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Professor Ogugua Egwu, and his counterpart of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Chidi Igboji, appreciated the Governor for the gesture, describing it as a dream come true for Ebonyi workers.


Egwu said: “We are highly elated that the dream of making healthcare affordable and accessible to all workers in Ebonyi State has become a reality as today we flag-off civil and public servants health insurance Programme (Onwa Healthcare).


“This is made possible courtesy of one of the numerous huge interventions made by His Excellency Right Honourable Francis Ogbonna Nwuifuru.”


The Labour leader, however, urged the government to addressing some identified issues that would enhance the effectiveness of the scheme, including the constitution of a Board for the Ebonyi State Health Insurance Agency, EBSHIA.


He also drew attention to some lapses in the law establishing the scheme such as the nonspecification of contributory roles of the employer and employee, among others, and called on government to quickly address them.


In his message, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Moses Ekuma described the event as a milestone achievement in Governor Nwifuru’s efforts to provide adequate healthcare to the people of the state, stating that the event marked his happiest day.


He charged Ebonyi workers against self medication, urging them to make effective use of the opportunity to get the best healthcare and also enjoined health workers to show diligence and dedication to the scheme to enable it achieve the desired excellence in health delivery.


Others who delivered messages including the Head of Service, Dr. Ritamary Okoro; the Director-General of the National Health Insurance Agency, Dr. Kelechi Ohiri as well as the State Director of USAID-IHP, Dr. Oladipo Akinmade, appreciated the state government for the bold step.


While Okoro admonished the workers to be motivated by the gesture to redouble their commitment in service to the state, Ohiri, expressed delight on the development which he described as laudable.


Ohiri, represented at the event by the state Coordinator, NHIA, Dr. Ken Ogbu emphasized that Ebonyi was the 3rd state in the South East to take up the scheme.


He pledged that NHIA would continue to provide all needed backing to ensure that the scheme succeeds in Ebonyi State.


The Executive Secretary, Ebonyi State Health Insurance Agency, Dr. Divine Igwe, in an interview commended Governor Nwifuru and the wife for their genuine concern about the health and wellbeing of the people of the state.


He noted that apart from the recent free enrollment of over 4000 pregnant women courtesy of the Governor’s wife and her pet project, BERWO, the Agency has commenced the free enrollment of 60,000 vulnerable persons across the rural communities in the State as directed by the Governor.


Igwe added: “As I speak now, our people are in the hinterlands doing the enrollment, and it is given such that every facility will get 295 persons enrolled.


“On the criteria for selection, we gave the powers to the Ward Development Committees who are members of the various villages, to identify and recommend the real vulnerable persons.”


The event was attended by over 95% of state workers and the leadership of the organized labour.


Workers also sang solidarity songs to the Governor, pointing out some of his goodness to workers and expressing optimism that he would pay the expected new national ministries wage when approved.


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