Gov. Atiku Bagudu while flagging off the enrolment of the State Contributory Healthcare Scheme for vulnerable people in Birnin Kebbi.

The Kebbi State Governor, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu, has inaugurated the State Contributory Healthcare Scheme (KECHES), in a move to boost access to affordable healthcare services by vulnerable people in the state.

Bagudu, who officially kicked off the scheme in Birnin Kebbi on Saturday, said the initiative by the state government was aimed at ensuring that the people were healthier and productive through the provision of quality primary healthcare services.

“The Contributory Healthcare Scheme is a great milestone and we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that it thrives successfully”, the governor said, adding that the scheme provides ample opportunities for the communities across the state to collaborate with the state and local governments in running primary healthcare centres.

He explained that such collaboration would enable the efficient running of the PHCs and the possibility that over 80 per cent of diseases could be dealt with at the PHC level with only the rest 20 per cent of diseases requiring referrals.

“All these will be done without overburdening the families and what more can be better and happier than this?”, he asked.

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He pledged to do everything humanly possible to ensure that the scheme functions effectively, especially by ensuring sustainable training of all the personnel to handle the scheme, provision of the needed facilities and sensitization, while commending the invaluable contributions of all the stakeholders, development partners, traditional and religious leaders, to the scheme.

Earlier, the state Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Jafar Muhammad, said that the state had been taking the appropriate steps towards ensuring Universal Health Coverage (UHC) as one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

“The scheme is a strategy at ensuring sustainable funding for health, and to defray out of pocket expenditure (OOPE) for health care, hence the domestication of the State Social Health Insurance Scheme (SSHIS) in line with our culture and religious beliefs.

“It is also established to ensure that residents of the state, irrespective of tribal, religious or social affiliation, enjoyed unfettered access to qualitative and affordable health care without the risk of financial hardship linked to paying for care,” he said.

Muhammad said that the vulnerable groups, pregnant women, children under five years and orphans as well as the elderly would be cared for from the pool of funds generated from others and from government subsidy in the form of equity funds as provided for in the law.

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The commissioner assured the people of the state that the scheme would be people-centred, urging them to own the scheme and participate fully in order to ensure successful outcomes.

In his remarks, the Executive Secretary of the scheme’s management agency, KECHEMA, Dr. Jafar Augie, commended Gov. Bagudu for his visionary leadership and foresight both of which, he said, would help in achieving UHC in the state.

“The organized labour, CSOs, State Council of Ulama, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the association of private medical practitioners were all important in proactively shaping the contributory healthcare scheme. They remain important stakeholders whose support is practically indispensable for the agency,” he said.

The secretary also commended the Wife of Gov. Bagudu, Dr Zainab Shinkafi- Bagudu, for her advocacy and being a true ambassador of KECHEMA.

Giving an overview of the Scheme, the Permanent Secretary state Ministry of Health, Alhaji Ibrahim Maigandi, told the gathering that the Agency came into being in line with the National Healthcare policy on the provision of accessible quality health care as the foundation for socio-economic development.

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Also speaking, the Executive Secretary, Kebbi State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Abubakar Kaoje, welcomed the establishment of KECHEMA, describing the action as an important achievement and blessing to Kebbi as it would enable more communities to access quality healthcare without facing any financial problems.

He disclosed that all primary healthcare centres in the State were now functional as 112 health centres have been renovated and upgraded statewide.

Alhaji Attahiru Gwandu, the State Coordinator of the National Health Insurance Scheme, (NHIS), in his speech at the occasion, described the introduction of KECHES by the government as a huge step forward in reducing expenses incurred on health services by the people.