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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Nigeria’s Crumbling Health Sector

THE  health sector like every other in Nigeria is fast crumbling like a pack of cards. No thanks to the recurrent crises in the industry in recent times that have refused to abate.

THE crises are a mix of problems including, inaccessibility of quality health care, poor hygiene, corruption, malnutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water, poor health infrastructure, fake drugs, insufficient financial investment, and lack of sufficient health personnel. Government’s performance in the health sector has been abysmal. Investment in infrastructure has been poor, and meager remuneration for health workers has created a massive brain drain to the United States  and Europe.

THE   annual budget of the government for the health sector is 4.17% of the total national budget. This experts say hovers around $5 per person per year.

Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector. Unfortunately, many Nigerians cannot afford private hospitals; they are simply too expensive.

MOST of our personnel have always cried out that there is dearth of modern facilities for diagnosis and treatment. This has made hospitals to be mere consulting centres without adequate medicare.

MANY hospitals are over-crowded without space and those with enough space do not have the needed facilities.

The decrepit state of healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria has continued to negatively impact economic productivity. The most recent Human Development Index ranks Nigeria 158 out of 189 countries with an average life expectancy rate of 54.3 years sticking out prominently. Furthermore, poor local healthcare facilities has led to sustained increase in healthcare tourism with countries like India, United Kingdom and United States of America being prominent destination points. As estimated report revealed that over $1.0bn is being expended on medical tourism annually.

LACK  of adequate and qualified personnel is not a problem of Nigeria’s health problem but the stifling working environment has made many of them seek greener pastures abroad. For example, about 77% of black doctors in the in the United States are Nigerians and have achieved tremendous feats in American medicine. We recall a Nigerian doctor, Oluyinka Olutoye, based in Houston, made history few years back when he brought out a fetus from a mother’s womb to remove a tumor, and then successfully restoring the unborn baby to the womb. There’s rarely any top medical institution in the US or Europe where you don’t find Nigerians managing at the top level. This is at the detriment of their country.

THE situation is gradually becoming worse  as Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo raised concern over the relocation of nurses outside the country.He  lamented that he signs about four resignation letters daily for nurses, expressing the need to urgently address the trend.

THE Residential Doctors Association are currently on a warning strike over dearth of adequate medical personnel. They insist that government should start a quick process of recruitment.

WE  therefore call for an urgent look at the health sector that in the country with a view to bridging the gap. Bridging infrastructure deficit in the healthcare sector would require concerted efforts from both the private and public sectors. The private sector remains best equipped to provide the quantum of funds needed to revamp healthcare infrastructure in Nigeria. Thus, we believe the FG should enact policies and create incentives that would improve private sector participation in the sector.

WE encourage government to as a matter of policy declare state of emergency in the health sector: fill the vacancies and ensure enhanced benefits for health workers. This we believe will discourage health workersfrom traveling abroad at the expense of the nation’s health sector.

ALSO adequate provisions be made by government for the infrastructural development of hospitals . Government should ensure people have access to quality health care , discourage citizens’ reliance on herbal medicine and elites’ medical tourism .

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