Nigeria’s healthcare system under threat
It is hard to believe that the healthcare sector is becoming a ghost of itself, no thanks to the fine structures all over the country without adequate medical facilities. The outcry from several quarters urging successive governments to treat the healthcare sector specially has been near universal and its intensity striking. Yet, in the ears of government, it seems like beating a drum for a deaf person to dance.
Therefore, the sector has hitherto remained grossly incapacitated because of paucity of fund and doctors pass through a lot of stress to achieve success in performing simple dialysis. It is disheartening to learn that when doctors try to press home their demand to equip the hospitals through a strike action, they are labelled and called several uncanny names. Most times, if not in all cases, the dispute is usually resolved with lip-service and failed promises on the side of government.
Of course, the after effect is what we have today across the country as hospitals, which are now reduced to mere glorified consulting centres. One of my mentors recently escaped death by hairbreadth due to wrong diagnosis in a facility called a specialist hospital. This is as a result of lack of medical laboratory equipment that would have detected what was wrong outright, than mere physical examination of touching and feeling the body temperature and so on after which the patient is put to a question-and-answer test, which will determine the doctor’s prescription. This is shameful for a country like Nigeria which is signatory to the 2001 Abuja Declaration of African health ministers that pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of their national budgets towards improving their health systems. The sad news, according to the World Health Organisation, is that after over a decade of that declaration, very few countries had achieved the 15 per cent target. While seven countries had actually reduced their health budget and 12 are yet to make any progress.
Apparently, there is not a healthcare system in the world today which is not in some form of crisis or challenges. All face one challenge or the other. However, the situation of healthcare system in Nigeria has grown particularly pathetic and acute. The fact remains that, on all angles, the Nigeria healthcare system seems threatened by dilapidating facilities among others. Recently, The Guardian reported some hardships facing the ambitious Ibom Multi-Specialist Hospital established on a patriotic principle to help stop the brain drain and medical tourism in the country. Sadly, according to the report, the facility runs on 24 hours alternate power supply as it is yet to be connected to the power grid as well as the bottle-neck challenge to obtain forex to maintain the equipment. Over the years the health sector has been neglected by the federal, state and local governments and this cavalier attitude of government towards the healthcare sector has made it to fall short, so much so that government officials and even the president often seek medical attention abroad. In fact, the president’s recent medical trip abroad has in no small measure highlighted the fact that, the health sector is helpless.
It is not out of place to say that Nigeria deserves sympathy. Not too long ago there was fuss on the huge sums of money spent on Aso Rock hospital. Yet, the president has found it safer to be treated abroad. The failure of the healthcare system is, on a serious note, not a reflection of inadequate supply of experienced doctors, or nurses and support staff, whose dedication and patriotic zeal to serve the nation is beyond reproach. It is disheartening therefore, to learn that some heartless and corrupt government officials whose obligation it is to either release fund or to procure the essential amenities in the healthcare sector fail to strike the right balance and end up compromised.
It is commendable to see government make the right moves in many areas especially the proposed revolution in agriculture among others. This is splendid. But government must also show the same energy and enthusiasm when it comes to healthcare because those who are going to exploit the agricultural dream must first, be healthy through adequate healthcare services. It is important to reiterate the saying that: ‘a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.’
No doubt, corruption has put Nigeria’s healthcare system in a bad light making it seems as the worst of all world healthcare systems. This is sad. In the alternative, it gives no other choice to young, energetic and dedicated doctors than to join the brain drain abroad where they have access to the right facilities to work with among others.
Government should not forget that the health sector is a critical part of what it needs to grow the economy. More so, the well being of the people is the strength of the nation. Nigerians are known to taking enormous risks, working very long hours and enjoying fewer benefits and to compound all these, they are faced with inadequate healthcare system. A continued neglect of the healthcare system opens a floodgate of brain drain, medical tourism and a striking feature of uncertainty on the nation’s economy in the near future.
Often times, especially during election campaigns, those seeking elective offices tell us they have the grassroots people at heart and they tend to display this with well articulated promises. But those promises are completely undermined by a budget, which tends to fill the pockets of the politicians. As a matter of urgency, the government should take drastic action to equip the health sector. Government should have a rethink about the healthcare sector so as to protect its citizens from diseases and preventable deaths occasioned by lack of adequate medical amenities. Government needs not wait until civil rights groups or concerned Nigerians take to protest before it wakes up from its slumber and declare an emergency in the healthcare sector.
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