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Nigeria’s poor healthcare system

Since I wrote “Poor healthcare system: Nigeria’s moral indifference” over a decade ago, carefully detailing the staggering inadequacies in health care system in the nation, little or no improvement has been witnessed in the healthcare sector. Unfortunately, people in Nigeria continue to experience avoidable deaths; they continue to die of treatable illnesses. The habit of periodic medical check-up has still not been formed and swaths of the population only go to the doctor or to the hospital when seriously ill only to be misdiagnosed or wrongly medicated.

Most of the time, people seek medical assistance when the illness has reached an advanced stage. In some cases, no medical attention is sought due to paucity of funds. In such situations, individuals are forced to seek quack or native doctors. It is rather absurd!

Generally speaking, lack of access to quality healthcare coupled with the prevalence of quack hospitals and doctors, fake drugs and substandard products, seemingly put staggering financial burdens on families and the nation. The situation seems to get worse.  Unfortunately, I have lost relatives who went to the hospital for treatable illnesses and never came back alive. Horror stories like this abound among Nigerians in the Diaspora. As a result, many Nigerians in the Diaspora are inundated with wake-keeps or prayer vigils every Friday. Our weekends are replete with wake-keepings and there is no end in sight!

Sadly, all too familiar horror tales of healthcare system in Nigeria where people would go to various hospitals for minor and controllable illnesses and would end up in the morgue are becoming too uncomfortable to many in the Diaspora. It’s alarmingly scary and more uncomfortable with the realization of the fact that the healthcare system in our country is not equipped to deal with present and future challenges. But one would argue that the recent success in curbing Ebola would undercut the foregoing statements. Nevertheless, the life expectancy of 53 and 56 years for males and females respectively in Nigeria based on World Health Organization (WHO) in 2015 buttressed my earlier assertions. Also, WHO stated that the “probability of dying between 15 and 60 years (male/female — 368/318) (per 1 000 population, 2015),” is alarming.

Looking at the crosstabs of the data published by the WHO on Nigeria, one could conclude that the health care crisis in the country has taken an added significance because of sheer absence of constructive comprehensive national health policy. This phenomenon is of great social and economic consequence. But there is a glimmer of hope in the synergy evident during the Ebola outbreak. The action of the nation to fight to contain the deadly virus demonstrated that Nigeria is capable of establishing a critical mass necessary for  health care infrastructure comparable to the Western countries.

In any case, it’s abundantly clear that the sustainability and viability of a country’s economic and social growth depend largely on the vibrant health care sector of that nation. No country can maintain a steady economic growth in the absence of an adequate health care system fastened on a robust health care infrastructure. Healthcare issue is an enigma in Nigeria and its citizens are suffering the consequences. Again, solving the puzzle requires an aggressive approach from the Federal, State, and local governments working in tandem to address the national burden called inadequate health care system. Healthcare problem is a known national emergency and it should be considered as such. With preventable diseases killing people rampantly, Nigeria has to come up with aggressive healthcare programs to avert future calamity—sick and inadequate workforce.

The challenges continue to mount as people keep dying of minor illnesses that could have been prevented with simple medications and healthy lifestyle. In the absence of adequate and quality hospitals and healthcare professionals, the horror stories would proliferate. Obviously, there is a recipe for a viable healthcare system in Nigeria. First of all the government should come up with a comprehensive plan to overhaul the entire system by purging the system of all fake healthcare professionals.

There should be strict and rigorous standards for both health facilities and health staff for certification. All private and public healthcare facilities should not be allowed to operate with highly trained staff and specialists. Doctors and other healthcare professionals should maintain and upgrade their skills through continuous training and re-certification.

Additionally, government should establish a system that would make doctors and hospitals to be liable for unnecessary deaths. When they are found liable, they would be required to cough out huge sums of money for the families of the victims. There should be  checks and balances in our health care system so that life would be valued. The government should not allow fake doctors and hospitals to operate with impunity.

While the face of health care is changing globally, we would not continue to be sated with what Nigeria has at the moment. We have roll up our sleeves and get to work to bring the healthcare system up to world class standards. It’s imperative that Nigeria uses the same spirit and approach for combating fake drugs in dealing with the health care system if the country intends to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Regardless of the declining world oil prices, Nigeria still has the resources for a world-class healthcare system. The government should invest on public health for posterity. Nigerians in the Diaspora are willing to help if there is a comprehensive plan to do such. It’s our moral responsibility to arrest the situation so that history would be kind to us.

In the same token, the level of moral indifference toward the poor healthcare system among those in Nigeria is disconcerting.  The jinx of poor healthcare system must be broken in this generation. The Federal government should engage in meaningful collaborative effort with State and local governments to stem off the enigma surrounding the country’s healthcare system.

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