By Ifeoma Ezenyilimba and Chiamaka Olua
To ensure access to proper, affordable and sustainable primary healthcare for all, the Catholic Diocese of Awka has launched a Health Insurance Scheme known as Ahuike Health Agency, report Ifeoma Ezenyilimba and Chiamaka Olua.
Flagging off the Insurance Health Scheme at St Patrick's Catholic Cathedral Podium, Awka, January, 24, 2019, the Governor of Anambra State, Dr Willie Obiano, who was represented by the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Josephat Akabuike, stressed the importance of health insurance scheme which he said was for the provision of primary health care to the masses.
He assured that the Anambra State Government would partner with the Ahuike Health Agency and that the State Health Insurance Agency would discuss with the Ahuike Board of Trustee towards reaching a mutual understanding so as to ensure that people had access to proper health care.
The governor said the State Government had in three years committed much funds in healthcare assistance to people, but that subsequently only those that registered with Health Insurance Scheme would benefit from such largesse. He encouraged the people to register with the Health Agency so as to enjoy primary healthcare.
In his remarks, the Overall Director, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Ben Omeogo, who was represented by the South East Coordinator, Pharm. Mma Agwunobi, advised the Ahuike Health Agency to work in synergy with the Anambra State Health Insurance Agency so as to provide quality health care for all. He observed that such synergy would make access to basic health insurance funds very possible.
The coordinator however commended Anambra for what he described as her outstanding performance in NHIS, saying that the state had become a test-run for others in NHIS. He encouraged all to register with the Ahuike Health Agency so as to enjoy its numerous benefits.
Earlier in his keynote address, the Catholic Bishop of Awka Diocese, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor, noted that Ahuike Health Agency was established to provide affordable and easy access to healthcare services for its members. He said that the Church got involved in healthcare delivery, because it was part of her obligation and mandate to care for the total and integral wellbeing of people.
Citing statistics, Bishop Ezeokafor observed that Nigeria was one of the most dangerous places to give birth in the world and the 4th country with the worst maternal mortality.
'According to World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, the average life expectancy for Nigerians is 55.2 years, thus occupying 178th position out of 192 ranked countries. Even Ghana's life expectancy is 63.4 years and higher than that of Nigeria's,' the bishop's address read.
Pointing out that one of the major causes of early deaths was lack of adequate healthcare, the Catholic prelate called on all to support and promote the Ahuike Health Agency, even as he noted that the agency was a grassroots initiative which had space place for the young, the aged, children and pregnant mothers.
The bishop encouraged all to register and be part of the initiative, irrespective of their religious, political, cultural and social affiliations. This was even as he maintained that the students in the mission schools and the workers of Church establishment were also beneficiaries of the heath scheme.
He solicited for free will donations from spirited individuals so as to complement the financial subscriptions of members for adequate primary healthcare for all, especially the poor masses.
In his address of welcome, the BOT Chairman of the agency, Rev. Fr. Chudi-Peter Akaenyi, noted that the Ahuike Health Agency, which was the vision of Bishop Ezeokafor, was a community based health program of the Catholic Diocese of Awka in partnership with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
He observed that statistics had it that the Catholic Church was the largest non-government provider of health care services in the world, and had managed not less than 26% of the world's healthcare facilities.
The BOT chairman said the agency was committed to its mission of providing affordable primary and secondary healthcare to all and sundry. On membership, he said the registration required a one-off payment of N250 with two passport photographs, with the person receiving an ID card and enrolment form.
According to Fr Akaenyi, the first level of membership was for those in primary and secondary schools, who would pay an annual membership fee of N6, 000 while others of the second level (non-students), would pay an annual membership of N12, 000.
The benefits accruing to members include access to Ahuike Care services, free access to healthcare for pregnant women and children of 0-5 years of age and referral possibilities for major cases, to be negotiated with the management of the scheme.
According to the BOT chairman's address, the healthcare providers under the scheme included all school clinics within the diocese; Regina Caeli Specialist Hospital, Awka; St Joseph's Specialist Hospital, Adazi-Nnukwu; Trinitas International Hospital, Umuchukwu; Visitation Hospital, Umuchu and Immaculate Heart Hospital, Umunze.
Others were Abba Health Centre; Akpo Health Centre; Akpugoeze Health Centre; Ebenebe Health Centre; Ezinifite Health Centre and Our Lady of Fatima Health Centre, Igbo Ukwu.
In his goodwill message, the chairman of the occasion, Chief Sir Anthony Enukeme, OON, KSG, applauded the bishop for his vision to set up the agency so as to give every individual access to proper healthcare and save lives. Enukeme, who is the CEO of Tonimas Group, described health insurance as the future of healthcare in Nigeria.
Highlights of the event were the presentation of official ID cards to the first five members of the agency and donations in support of the project. Sir Enukeme, led in the donations with N1M.