Thought Leadership

Minister of Health for Nigeria: A Job Description

2 Mins read

….if I was looking…this is what I would be looking for:

With the Ministry of Finance and the Attorney Generals Office, the Ministry of Health belongs to a small group of ministries that are unique in the specificity of its functions. Health and health services involves complexities that are extremely difficult to understand in detail by people outside the health professions.

The next minister should come from one of the health professions.

Many in the health profession spend their careers managing individual patients. Few have had any managerial experience beyond their clinical teams. Few receive any management training. They are rarely trained to think strategically, to plan, set objectives, execute projects, monitor milestones, manage budgets, and manage people. Nigerians could not identify with any objectives of the MOH in the past years because none has been communicated to them. Our tertiary hospitals are all managed as single entities by clinicians with no managerial experience either, no surprise none of them attracts the confidence of Nigerians. A vast number of health parastatals are fiefdoms of incompetence that have hardly affected the lives of Nigerians apart from maybe NAFDAC.

The next minister should have proven managerial experience or/and training and be able to see the link between health and development.

Most health professionals spend their careers thinking about the health of individual patients. Since most of them come from teaching hospital settings, they tend to think of health as the health care of those that make it to teaching hospitals. This is the thinking behind the investment of billions of dollars in procuring extremely expensive equipment for teaching hospitals, which on rare occasions that they do work, cannot be afforded by most; a completely flawed investment. How many lives has the £10M MRI saved?

The next minister should have experience or/and training in thinking about health in population terms. I.e. what will be the most efficient way to invest the resources available for health to benefit the most people?

The Ministry of Health is probably the best placed ministry to attract funds well in excess of its federal allocation from partner agencies and bodies. With Nigeria’s 140 million people, there will not be any significant impact on global health programmes without Nigeria’s engagement. The world needs us, but we have to always remember that it is in our peoples’ best interest to attract resources for health and health care to Nigeria.

The next minister needs to be competent, confident, articulate, result oriented and able to deal with international partners.

Finally…the Minister of Health can be the most thankless position. Health indicators do not change over night in best of times. Many of the things that affect health are outside the remit of the Ministry of Health. Healthy people do not make the news! There are a lot of temptations to cut corners, to seek quick solutions, to compromise. Any compromise will lead to people dieing.

Integrity is the single most important quality absolutely required of the next Minister of Health.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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