The Deplorable State Of The Nigerian Health System: Maybe We Can Fix This Now?

By Ogungbile Oludotun

Apparently, she knew what had happened, so she closed the eyes of her dead child. She covered the face with her robe, and knelt by her bedside together with one of her sons. The disstressed widow groaned in anguish as no river of condolence could relieve the excruciating furnace that burns within her. Grievous, her twenty one-year old undergraduate daughter was dead. In one year, she had spent nearly all her savings to cure her child because there was no reliable health insurance policy to support her daughter's plight. The girl had been taken to different specialist at variant private government hospitals; she had stayed there for practically ten months, with the doctors nonplussed, suggesting varied tests upon tests, consequential and inconsequential drugs, recommendations upside recommendations--all but to no avail. The Nigeria health system failed her once again, even after it had chagrined her when her husband was alive. Hence, no one could blame her grim resolution as the Nigerian hospitals failed to protect the health of her only daughter, kvetching that they could not get the requisite equipments and facilities to support the health of the vulnerable daughter, saving if she could fly out the girl to India-- a mission impossible.

Today, the Nigerian health system still ebbs and deteriorates, little did we know why we suffer painfully in the hands of the current pandemic situation of Covid-19. It's evident that we can hardly vaunt of enough tests kits, enough ventilators, enough bed spaces and equipments to fight the novel virus. Infact, the Nigerian government herself, had long stigmatised her own health care system as the last president to make effective use of a Nigerian hospital was retired General Yakubu Gowon, who when he was he was the head of state made sure that Victoria his wife had their babies at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Hence, opening that it has been over 50 years that a Nigerian president had last used a Nigerian hospital for treatment. So I ask you, isn't that pathetic for us as a nation?

The Nigerian health care is poignantly enduring from countless undoings on a daily basis inspite our regular 'claim' of being the 'giant of Africa'. The country is monstrously 'malnourished' in her health care sector that even an average citizen can see for his or herself. It's ostensive to the poor and the rich that our health centers are starked, personnel incapable, and the medical equipments are deficient and insufficient, most especially in the less regarded bucolic part of the country. True, the our health system has been evolving over the years through simple health care reforms aiming to address the wide ranging and public health issues confronting the country in her corners, which includes Nigeria health Insurance scheme, Nigeria Immunisation Coverage Scheme, and lot more. It might be evident that some of this reforms have been successful while some could not due to instability of plans and purposes.

Now, it's glaring that our health care system remains emphatically weak as validated by the political instability experienced on a daily basis. Our political system had experienced more than many government with various health reforms which refused to enhance the necessary continuity, tampering with the growth of our health care system. Corruption also sits at the topmost place of our health system, so upsetting that a lot of money has over the years been infused into thes hospitals yet we are still stuck in the same potholes our forefathers left us.

Consequently, the federal apportion for the health sector is quite pathetic in a country with little or no infrastructure to carry the most basic necessities that even some hospitals rely on unreliable generators to perform surgeries on patients, a risk which might tamper with the lives of the victims. Some of our hospitals also run on vacuous and empty equipments that even as the pandemic spreads at this moment they will never know how to handle the situation. It's blatant the we suffer in the midst of plenty. Many other wretched conditions Nigerians encounters also includes low level synchronization, fractured mileages, diminutive resources, insufficient and inept manpower, unstable economy and lot more have all contributed to the present day of a deplorable condition of our health care.

Moreover, we need to ask the questions of if this is how we shall continue to leave our health care system in a deplorable condition? That when malaria, diarrheal diseases, road injuries, hepatitis, cancer, meningitis, stroke and tuberculosis hit Nigerians, that shall we still run to the same hospitals that can not care for itself? Maybe we say that we shall continue to die unnecessarily from preventable conditions and disease if there are no proper programs designed to address each of these problems. The first WHO Global Status Report on non-communicable disease listed Nigeria and other developing countries as the worst hit with deaths from non-communicable diseases.These diseases with a rising burden in Nigeria include cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, sickle cell disease, asthma, coronary heart disease, obesity, stroke, hypertension, road traffic injuries and mental disorders. Again a 2011 World Health Statistics, malaria mortality rate for Nigeria is 146 per 100,000 population, that Malaria remains the foremost killer disease in Nigeria. It accounts for over 25% of under 5 mortality, 30% childhood mortality and 11% maternal mortality. So I ask, Isn't this cumbersome enough for us? Maybe the government might need to answer

Dear readers, don't you think that it's high time that we overhauled the Nigeria health system, fixing it now or ever. Don't you think we have suffered enough deaths in the hands of bad health conditions of our health system and unqualified personnel? Don't you think that when consequent pandemic problems comes devouring, that shall we be equipped to facing them? Don't you think our leaders must wake up and declare a state of emergency on our health sector? If you don't think so, I do. The Nigerian health policy deciders need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social, financial and all general protection for her vulnerable populations. Maybe Nigeria needs to follow the suggestions of the World Health Organization (WHO) of effective implementation of the provisions of her National Health Act, which sets out the responsibility and roles of different players in the Nigerian health sector and provides for a basic health care provision fund to improve her primary health care. Furthermore, maybe there is a need for a round table discussions before we are overwhelmed by our pathetic footings. Shall we fix this now?

Ogungbile Emmanuel oludotun - University of Ibadan

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."