By Biola Adebayo
The Federal Government is introducing a funding mechanism to cater for patients with confirmed cases of Lassa fever in the country, the Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control , Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, has said.
Ihekweazu said this on Sunday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja.
He explained that the aim of the healthcare fund was to ensure that money does not become a hindrance for patients in accessing Lassa fever treatment.
“We are making plans through the Basic Primary Healthcare Provision Fund, the new funding instituted by the federal government, to cover the cost of treatment of confirmed cases of Lassa fever patients.
“A process is ongoing on how to manage this and it is at the heart of discussion at all levels of government at the moment.
“The aim is to make sure that ability to pay is not a barrier to accessing the treatment for public health diseases such as lassa fever,” Ihekweazu said.
According to him, efforts are being made by the government through the NCDC to reduce the burden of lassa fever treatment on patients, pending the take- off of the healthcare fund.
The NCDC boss explained that “We from the federal government level have made sure that the core treatment costs are covered; of course when you are admitted in a hospital there are other costs accrued to you.
“What we have been doing with the Teaching Hospitals is to make sure that such cost is reduced to the barest minimum.
“In some cases we are able to treat patients absolutely free, in other cases they still have to pay.
“What we have ensured in all the treatment centres in Nigeria is that no patient has ever been turned away because of his or her inability to pay and no patient has been detained in any hospital for not being able to pay.
“So, eventually, either upfront or at the end of that treatment period, we ensure that everyone gets the treatment,” he said.
Ihekweazu urged Nigerians to adopt all possible preventive measures such as safe food storage principle and keeping a clean environment to ward off rodents.
He said: “You don’t need to be wealthy to keep your environment clean, so, the key thing is to get the messages out in all Nigerian languages that this is what you need to do to prevent the disease.
“Prevention is so much cheaper than cure because the illness can kill. This is a big financial burden for government.
“Even though the cost of lassa treatment is very high, we have carried the biggest part of that cost on behalf of the Nigerian government, and we have ensured that the core treatment cost of every Lassa fever patient is covered.
“Ribalvrin is a very expensive drug but we ensure that every confirmed case gets the drug free, but no matter how accessible you can make the treatment of lassa, it is always cheaper to prevent it.
“So, we are really encouraging people not to even get into the circle of treatment because even with all the resource in the world, we still cannot guarantee a great outcome.
“I can tell you that the best most effective, most efficient and most cost effective form of managing this disease is preventing it from happening in the first place,” he added.