President Buhari's Medical Travels, Resident Doctors Strike And The Future Of Nigeria's Health Sector

By Momoh, Emmanuel Omeiza
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The issue of leadership and political management in Nigeria seems to be a burden and a mystery which the strongest of the human mind may find difficult to unravel or fathom.

To say the least is to say the fact that our system of leadership is founded on the premise of "do what I say and not what I do". What do you think has been the consequences and resultant effect of this overtime?Clashes, divisions, uproars, industrial actions and the likes.

Just last week, two events infiltrated into the national atmosphere which drew attention from different quarters. One was the decision of the President to travel to the United Kingdom to seek medical assistance and the second was the decision of the national association of resident doctors (NARD) to embark on a nationwide strike as a means of expressing their grievances over poor wages and conditions of service.

These two events have generated a plethora of arguments and controversies not only on the basis of the poor condition of healthcare facilities on the nation but on the insistence of the nation's political administrators to embark on medical travels abroad. This utilizing State funds and tax payments from the majority of citizens.

The global pandemic which exposed the rot and mess in our nation's health care system and which forced many of the nation's leaders to reduce their medical travels has suddenly been nipped in the bud technically. No sooner than the gates of advanced countries in the world been opened have our political leaders been traveling abroad seeking assistance from foreign experts.

At a time when the nation is going through crucibles with respect to the brouhaha and gyrations which have greeted the administration of the covid-19 vaccine nationwide, one cannot but fault the pretense and hypocrisy which are the standards of political administration in Nigeria.

Civil society organizations such as the human rights wayehc group have recorded that President Buhari had spent more than half of a year on medical travels. This is from the time he was first elected in year 2015. The report noted that the year 2017 recorded the highest as the President travelled twice. This in January and in May. All these funded mainly by state funds.

The Transparency International a human rights organization had succinctly noted that more that more that close to a billion naira had been utilized by the President on medical travels since he assumed office. The controversy surrounding this stems from the yearly allocations set aside to find the hospital located within the state house in Abuja.

All these reports which are based on facts and figures give clear insight to how public finds are wasted by a former military administrator who during his electioneering campaigns promised to curb the financial excesses of political leaders using the instrumentality of the law and the jury.

While all the above seems to be order of the day, the crux of the matter which is eliminating the rot in the nation's health sector has been overlooked and forgotten. The resultant effect of this are not far-fetched when the statistics of medical and health practitioners who have emigrated abroad is brought to the fore.

Towards the end of last year, the United Kingdom had officially announced its decisions to welcome medical officials from neighbouring countries to work in their country. Similar countries in the European and American hemisphere had followed suit.

The national body of medical practitioners and the West African Fellowship of surgeons had constantly lamented the paucity of capable hands in the health sector especially in third world countries of which Nigeria is one.

Amidst all this, our policy makers do not see the urgency of revamping the health sector which the poor are forced to utilise. This overtime has resulted in casualties, maternal and infant !mortalities and permanent disabilities for some due to the quack tools and equipment which are made available.

Just recently, the President was inoculated with the Covid-19 vaccine on a public media show. And the next thing after is traveling abroad for medical reasons. To the masses, these dual actions have ulterior motives which only a sane mind can comprehend have ripple effect on reducing the morale of the citizens in local health insurance.

President Buhari's action spells doom. Little wonder, many of his aides and allies are gradually following in his footsteps. Is it then a surprise that the bill to reject medical travels for political office holders was rejected by the parliament? No, after all, these are all funded by tax payers monies.

Nigeria’s health sector has bee rated as one of the worst globally especially by the World Health Organization. A recent research study ranked it as the 165th out of 180 countries. This need to be a surprise as the evidences to these studies and reports are starring us in the face.

Simple diseases such as polio, malaria, Lassa fever seem to be mountainous for our healthcare officials to tackle due to the paucity of funds and meagre facilities available.

Need we not borrow a leaf from Finland and Russia who have been adjudged to have the best health care system? You may want to say the countries are not located within the African continent. How about Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and Rwanda who have received commendations from world health bodies for revamping their health sector towards providing a universal health coverage for their citizens?

But how can this be achieved when strikes and other industrial actions are the bane of our healthcare services? Do we want to say this is achievable when those at the helm of affairs prefer to patronise foreign experts leaving the populace to scramble for junks in the local sector?

As long as we do not take the right steps in the right direction, our healthcare care system will continue to rot leading to grave damages in terms of financing and casualties, industrial actions and emigration of health workers.

The earlier we do the needful, the better.

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