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NIGERIA @ 57: Health sector neglected without attempts at improvement

The Nigerian healthcare system has suffered a lot of neglect and attempt at improving it for the betterment of the populace has been at a slow pace.

For decades, communicable disease outbreak has been a threat not only to lives of individuals but also a matter of national security. The recent flooding in various parts of the country gave way to diverse health issues including cholera outbreak.

From non-communicable diseases like diabetes, kidney diseases and heart issues, to mention a few, there has been an increase in figures of Nigerians who are diagnosed to have these ailments but healthcare hasn’t been enough. Doctors aren’t adequate in number when compared to the patients available and the exodus of medical practitioners has created a scarcity in the system.

The frequently asked question is whether Nigeria has anything to show in the health sector for its 57 years of nationhood. A ready answer is not forthcoming from any quarter. But one major challenge Nigeria has struggled to conquer has been the issue of polio. Children under the age of five are most at risk and places with poor sanitation are usually the breeding grounds for the virus that spreads through infected faeces.

For every one person paralysed by polio, another 200 will be contagious. In 2016, World Health Organisation (WHO) identified polio cases in North-Eastern Nigeria in spite of previously declaring the country “polio-free”. Today, only three countries – Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan remain polio-endemic, down from more than 125 in 1988.

It hasn’t however been doom all the way. The fourteenth meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR) regarding the international spread of poliovirus was convened by the Director General on August 3, 2017 at WHO headquarters, the overall committee was encouraged by continued steady progress in all three WPV1 infected countries, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria, and the fall in the number of cases globally, with no international spread detected in the last three months.

The committee however submitted that the risk of international spread from Nigeria to the Lake Chad basin countries or further afield in sub-Saharan Africa remains high.

Another major challenge in the Nigerian health sector is the health insurance scheme (NHIS). Countless Nigerians have lost their lives due to lack of funds and also inadequate provision of healthcare by the government. This has led to countless losses of lives, and the frequent strike actions by healthcare workers hasn’t helped the situation.

“If the NHIS hasn’t been a complete success, how can we achieve universal healthcare?”, the minister of health, Isaac Adewole, queried,  stating that “the current universal healthcare agenda for change through Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) revitalisation, offering great promise in reaching at least 100 million Nigerians with a minimum package of quality PHC services is the most commendable.”

He disclosed that “the government has plans to revitalise 10,000 of existing primary health care facilities nationwide, which translates to, at least, one primary healthcare facility per political ward. To achieve this, we plan to ensure that each political ward will have, at least, one functional PHC.”

The President of the Senate of Nigeria, Bukola Saraki, few months ago, launched the National Assembly Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage so that “healthcare coverage can be the right of all Nigerian citizens; I strongly believe that it is possible.”

The challenge with healthcare is mainly financing which is the bottom line to improving the sector even as Nigeria takes stock of how far she has gone in terms of adequate healthcare in the past 57 years.

According to Tayo Aduloju, Senior Fellow, Public Policy and Institutional Development, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, “the current trajectory of investment in healthcare sector is not sufficient to support the current population of Nigeria and is at best mundane in its aspirations to support the future national healthcare needs and across the globe, governments, healthcare delivery systems, insurers, and consumers are engaged in a persistent tug-of-war between competing priorities: between meeting the increasing demand for healthcare services and reducing the rising cost of those services,” he said.

Adedayo Joseph, an Oncologist and Founder, The Dorcas Cancer Foundation, has her perspective on Nigeria at 57. “As we celebrate another independence day, we must ask what has really changed for the better in the last one year? It is true that efforts are being made to improve health care delivery in Nigeria; it’s particularly inspiring to see a younger crop of doctors developing new and innovative ways to streamline care delivery with technology; however, as a specialists working daily in one of the most under-funded aspects of the health care sector, I have to say that we have a long way to go”, she said.

The ideals of independence fall short when citizens cannot trust their healthcare delivery system. When women,  children and men in their prime die from preventable, and or treatable causes. I always say that the government cannot do everything; the change always begins with the individual units of any system. However, the system has to create an environment where change can thrive. A new national strategy needs to be devised and implemented.” Adedayo Advised.

For Maymunah Yusuf Kadiri, a Consultant Neuro – Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist, a lot still needs to be done from the local level to the national level. She insists that the national health bill should be reviewed and released as soon as possible in order to sanitize the health care sector. She further advises that the government should look critically on what is not working and make it work because the ordinary Nigerian citizen is the one suffering.

“The frequent strike action in the health sector are the worst things that can happen to the citizens of a Nation. Today, the doctors, tomorrow, the JOHESU will follow. This doesn’t only depict our poor level of involvement as a Nation, but shows lack of commitment to our holistic wellbeing,” she said, adding that neither the NHIS by the government nor the privately owned HMOs are doing justice to the common man.  For Maymunnah, some medical conditions aren’t listed on these platforms, most aren’t effective, the HMOs are ripping off Nigerians rather than making life bearable for them.

“It’s a health insurance scheme and as such should be readily available, accessible, and affordable. A lot of out of the pocket payable for our health care services is still the order of the day in Nigeria by Nigerians. This and many more are reasons why our morbidity and mortality is rated very high.

As Nigeria turns 57 years old, our health care system is not encouraging and the government must see to this as a matter of urgency. ‘Health is wealth’ is a slogan of the world health organization, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation, how we manage and revamp the health sector will go a long way to create that much needed healthy nation we all desire to have.” Said Kadiri.

Kemi Ajumobi

The post NIGERIA @ 57: Health sector neglected without attempts at improvement appeared first on BusinessDay : News you can trust.

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