Opinion: Stinking Health Sector and a Country’s Promise Land

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The growth, development, advancement in social, economic and political life of a Nation is not just a function of individual well-being of the citizens but of a working and standardized salubrity. Good health is as sacrosanct as the breath in the nostrils of humans because there’s philosophical statement that says “health is wealth”.

A sick citizenry implies a downtrodden nation with epileptic growth in the various sectors of its economy which will in turn cripple positive Indices for onward movement and enlargement. A developed lives’ saving sector equals advanced Nation because it is a tool maximised when gauging the strength of various countries of the world.

Nigeria happens to be one of the Nations with great prospects in health sector development if it’s leaders had chosen to put pegs in right holes though hope is not lost. The dilapidation, expiration and oozing stench of poor infrastructures is visible to the blind and audible to the deaf. There’s need for immediate response.

On the 10th Of October 2019, the president of Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Francis Faduyile through The Guardian Newspaper posited that the brain drain syndrome in the medical sector will not cease until Federal Government addresses the basic challenges facing them. 

Dr. Francis lamented persistent system collapse and dilapidated infrastructure in the public health facilities in Nigeria. 

NMA boss affirmed that members do leave the country for greener pasture for reasons not far-fetched. The Government does not care about the sensitive nature of medical jobs, from the Lowest Nurse to the highest raking personnel in the discipline.

There were complaints on how the Government in time past and present ignored the need for the employment of more hands in the sector for it to thrive excellently and creating a suitable working environment with required equipments.

The health department of every nation is the life wire upon which other divisions of the economy survive and flourish unarguably. During the early days of the outbreak of Corona virus in Wuhan China, Italy, USA, England and other countries, many big wigs in Nigerian polity wished they could travel out to  take refuge in developed West where they could hide their lives, leaving other poor inhabitants behind. But as time went, it became glaringly obvious that no where is safe from the havoc of the virus as the means of contracting it is easy and flexible.

Then our leaders, both past and present suddenly realised that ‘the dilapidated, decayed and ignored health facilities’ are the last hope of the rich and the poor. When it was confirmed that one of the movers and shakers of billions in Naira and Dollars was positive, the only available palliative ventilator was moved from where it was positioned to serve common men to his place of abode because there was no other one around.

Precipitously, foreign medical tourism vanished into tin air because Corona does not respect wealth and it knows no bounds between bourgeoisie and the proletariat, between the haves and the have-nots. The question is, what happened to the billions allocated to the sector yearly from all past administrations till this time? For 2020 fiscal year, 44.50billion naira was said to have been budgeted for the health sector, we believe there could be changes.

Furthermore, available statistics show that an average of 20,000 Nigerians travel to India each year for medical assistance due to the absence of a strong  and effective healthcare system at home. 

Nigeria is responsible for a high amount of under-five child deaths in it’s territory. UNICEF posited at one point that preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70% of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria. WHO in a 2017 report says that nearly ten percent of newborn deaths in the world occurred in Nigeria. This is disastrous and inimical to human survival.

In Nigeria, it is very rare for a year to come and go without a strike by health consultants, Nurses and Doctors. The important premise upon which these strikes are engaged in is poor remuneration and nonchalant attitude of government towards health sector investments.

This accounts for the reasons why many Nigerians who live below average can not afford the services of private hospitals because they are highly expensive.

Since health sector funding has become an established challenge in Nigeria, a common man will think the National Health Scheme (NHS) through the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) would serve a relief function to the Nigerian populace but it’s unfortunate to note that corruption has crippled all of their services mercilessly.

To get out of these long listed problems, the Federal and State Government should employ more medical hands for a consistent and continuous service delivery. They are Doctors, Nurses, Pharmacists, Virologists, Med Laboratory Scientists and others who are walking on the streets daily without gainful employment, Government should create space to hire their services.

Also, considering the dangerous hazards Medical jobs pose to its workers, there should be proper and standard remuneration for employees in the discipline from the lowest level to the peak. A risky job demands  mouth watering wage because it serves the function of motivation to do more even beyond official duty time.

The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, through the Minister of Health should ensure that budgeted and allocated funds to the sector be utilized properly. Any penny given to the sector is meant to be accounted for by those in charge of accounts for transparency. Caught corrupt officers should be subjected to public humiliation so it can serve as deterrent to others with similar intentions.

The medical field is not synonymous to other disciplines, as such, sensitive equipments that should be statutorily available in Hospitals be purchased in line with the public procurement Act. For example, since ICU Ventilator machines have become important right now for the Novel Corona virus, Nigeria’s 2020 Health budget should be tailored towards that, I.e, buying more for our hospitals in case of unforeseen emergencies. It is important to note that such procurement ought to be made in collaboration with certified members of the Nigeria Medical Association for the purpose of durability and originality.

The appointment of the Minister of Health should not be premised on who he or she knows, the money they have, the religion they belong to or tribe, rather, it should be on the principles of merit. It is expected in every Nation that such position be occupied by an active, certified and practising medical Doctor with not less than 8years job experience and also should not be above the Age of 45.

I believe when these recommendations are implemented with full force, Nigeria’s medical sector will be fit enough to compete with the Western world.

– Chigboja Gideon writes from Kogi State.

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