The governor says the scheme will ensure all residents of the state have access to quality health service at an affordable cost. The Gombe State Governor, Inuwa Yahaya, has flagged off the state's contributory healthcare scheme (GoHealth) with renewed commitment to ensure all residents have access to quality health service at an affordable cost without suffering financial hardship. The ceremony took place at the banquet hall of the Government House, Gombe. In his remark, Mr Yahaya said his administration had constituted the governing board and posted appropriate and competent staff to the new agency to ensure successful implementation of the scheme. He recalled that during the electioneering campaigns, he promised the people of the state that his administration would take bold steps to holistically address the numerous challenges facing healthcare delivery in the state. "Following our historic success at the polls, we set up a needs assessment team that toured over 400 communities across the the state to identify and prioritize the needs of our people. Access to quality health care came top as the most pressing problem bedeviling our people," he said. Mr Yahaya said a survey had revealed that there was extensive decay in the health system following years of neglect by the immediate past administration, stating that the sector in the past was in shambles, without essential drugs and lacking equipment and human resource. He said, "Our health indices were among the worst in the country. Yet, the system was being overstretched due to influx of IDPs from our neighbouring states. "However, upon assuming office in May 2019, we declared a state of emergency in the health sector and set an ambitious agenda to transform the system as set out in our health sector response plan 2019-2023. "We adopted a holistic approach to address the challenges so as to improve both physical as well as financial accessibility to basic health services." The governor explained that at the primary health care level, his administration had commenced immediate revitalisation of at least one fully functional PHC in each of the 114 political wards of the state in collaboration with the World Bank-supported Nigeria State Health Investment Project (NSHIP), which saw the injection of over N600 million as counterpart funds. "Today, I am proud to say we have at least 1 PHC in every ward of the state that is fully revitalized and open 24-hours a day in order to provide basic health services to our people at the grassroots," he said. Similarly, Mr Yahaya revealed that at the secondary health care level, his administration was able to thoroughly renovate and upgrade the Specialist Hospital Gombe, thus expanding its capacity to meet the increasing demand for specialised health care service by the growing population in the state. He said the Gombe State Government under his leadership had also commenced works to upgrade one general hospital to a befitting status in each senatorial district, which includes General Hospitals of Bajoga, Kumo and Kaltungo. "In addition, we shall equally renovate all other secondary health facilities in the state before the end of our four years mandate Insha'Allah. We have also established a Hospital Services Management Board to particularly ensure effective management of our secondary health facilities," he said. He said in order to improve the human resource for health in the state, his administration completed the internship quarters in the Specialist Hospital which was abandoned for more than 20 years thus meeting a critical requirement for accreditation by the MDCN for internship training of young doctors. He added that his administration was working to improve the training capacity of the college of nursing and midwifery. "While we are working assiduously towards improving physical access to quality healthcare services, we are also mindful of the significant hardship that individuals and families face because of paying for basic health care services out-of-pocket at the point of service utilisation," the governor stated. He noted that available data shows that in the North-east region of Nigeria, more than 60 per cent of this kind of out-of-pocket expenditure for health services pushes individuals and families into poverty, saying that was why his administration was working tirelessly with the Gombe State House of Assembly to enact the enabling law that established the Gombe State Contributory Healthcare Scheme (GoHealth) following the decentralisation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Also speaking at the occasion, the Commissioner for Health, Habu Dahiru, said the establishment of GoHealth was a deliberate effort by the current administration to achieve universal health coverage for the people of the state. "We are all aware of the comprehensive approach this administration is adopting to address the inherited challenges in the health sector by improving both physical as well as financial accessibility to basic health services. "The state has witnessed a revolutionary turnaround at both the primary and secondary health facilities levels over the last two years," he said. Mr Dahiru said introducing such a scheme will no doubt protect individuals and families from financial difficulties should they have the cause to visit the hospital for medical attention. The chairman of GoHealth governing council, Mohammed Isa-Umar, commended Mr Yahaya for exhibiting a rare courage and political will towards the establishment of the scheme. He said within six months of its establishment, the scheme had rolled out two important programmes to include basic health care programme for 25,000 Poor and Vulnerable Households PVHHs in the state and that for civil servants otherwise known as GoHealth. He assured the government and people of the state that the scheme will provide quality health care services to the citizens of the state.