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Buhari promises free healthcare for citizens above 60

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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has announced plans to establish geriatric centres at tertiary health institutions across the six geo-political zones of the country to provide specialized and free healthcare for Nigerians over the age of 60 years.

Buhari said this at the maiden edition of the National Summit on Healthy Ageing, in Abuja, on Wednesday, adding that the policy is aimed at improving health care services for the aged in the country.

This fresh promise of free healthcare for older citizens, coming so close to the 2019 general election, follows many unfulfilled promises by the Buhari administration to revamp the Nigerian Health Sector.

During his campaign prior to the 2015 election, Buhari promised, among other things, to pay attention to the health sector, but he ended up spending several months outside the country on medical leave as no hospital in the country was equipped enough to treat his ailment. Even the Aso Rock Clinic has remained in a state of disrepair and

Young Nigerian medical doctors keep travelling out in droves to the UK, USA, and Canda, in search of better opportunities, doctors and health workers still go on strike periodically in protest of poor working conditions and poor remuneration, and primary healthcare centres across the country remain ill-equipped and ill-staffed, despite the promise by the health ministry to revitalise at least 10,000 PHCs across the country.

Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who represented Buhari at the summit, said the federal government will provide resources and support to ensure that the programme is sustained across the country.

“We would ensure that resources and support are provided to enable us achieve the desired results, Adewole was quoted as saying on behalf of the president.

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“We are aware that some states give free healthcare services to under fives and women, we hope to extend these services to people over the age of 60 years.

“We must make healthcare services available to our senior citizens as part of the government appreciation and social responsibility and a way of recognising their immense contributions to national development.”

Adewole said the ministry would carry out a research on some of the diseases that older people are more prone to, as well as train special health workers for the special geriatric healthcare programme.

Aged people are more prone to non-communicable diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.

According to him, there would be a training of healthcare workforce through effective collaboration and technical support of international organisations. There would also be research on chronic diseases of the aged and community-based health-social support.

Adewole also promised that the policy would be integrated into the Universal Health Coverage strategy.

Also speaking at the event on Wednesday, the Director of Hospital Services at the Ministry of Health, Joseph Amedu, said that the National Policy on Healthy Ageing was the first of its kind in Sub-Saharan African and it would serve as a model for the provision of healthcare to the aged in Africa.

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Similarly, Chairman of the Governing Board of University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Sam Jaja, said the aim of the summit was to discuss the truth and beauty of healthy ageing, with emphasis on geriatric medicine.

He said that Nigeria is currently ranked 86th out of 96 countries in the global age index 2015, which ranked countries by how well their older populations were faring.

The theme of the maiden summit was “Promoting the healthcare agenda of the present administration on vulnerable populations with focus on the aged”.

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