30th October, 2010
Since I wrote “Poor healthcare system: Nigeria â€™s moral indifference” in 2005 detailing staggering inadequacies in healthcare system in Nigeria , little or no improvement has been witnessed in the healthcare sector. People in Nigeria continue to experience avoidable deaths; they continue to die of treatable illness. It is rather absurd!
The healthcare 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 to both individuals and the country. However, there is a glimmer of hope in Imo State . Gov. Ikedi Ohakimâ€™s administration places high premium on healthcare. This is precisely why the governor flagged off earlier in the year the â€œMillennium Development Goals/Maternal and Child Health Care Project at the Okohia Health Centre in Isiala Mbano Local Government Areaâ€ and in other areas in Imo State, including massive renovation of general hospitals. Gov Ohakim understood that for his economic programs to flourish in Imo State , there should be a healthy citizenry.
In any case, itâ€™s abundantly clear that the sustainability and viability of a countryâ€™s economic and social growth depend largely on vibrant healthcare sector of that nation. No country can maintain a steady economic growth in the absence of an adequate healthcare system. 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. Healthcare problem is a known national emergency and it should be considered as such. With the devastation of HIV/AIDS and other preventable diseases, Nigeria has to buckle-up and come up with aggressive healthcare programs to avert future calamityâ€”sick and inadequate workforce. Indeed, Nigeria has a very poor healthcare system! Itâ€™s sad!!
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 excessively uncomfortable to many of us in the Diaspora. Itâ€™s further alarmingly scary and more painful with the realization of the fact that the healthcare system in our Nigeria is not equipped to deal with present and future challenges that are bound to occur. Interestingly, 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.
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. Worse still, the quadrupled numbers of deaths people in the Diaspora receive everyday concerning their loved ones. 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-keeping or prayer vigils every Friday. Our weekends are replete with wake-keepings and there is no end in sight!
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. The doctors and other healthcare professionals should maintain and upgrade their skills through continuous training and re-certification.
Additionally, the 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 a check and balance in our healthcare system so that life would be valued. The government should not allow fake doctors and hospitals to operate with impunity.
While the face of healthcare system 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. Itâ€™s imperative that Nigeria uses the same spirit and approach for combating fake drugs in dealing with the healthcare system if the country intends to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Nigeria has the resources to have a world-class healthcare system. The government should invest on public health for posterity. Nigerians in the Diaspora are willing to help in revamping the healthcare system in the country if there is a comprehensive plan to do such. The current system is claiming innocent lives and the trend would not be allowed to continue. Itâ€™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. Everyone should wake up and do something to better system. The jinx of poor healthcare system must be broken in this generation. The federal government should engage in meaningful collaborative effort with the state and local governments to stem off the enigma surrounding the countryâ€™s healthcare system.
Acho Orabuchi, Ph.D. is an Educator, Opinion Writer and Adjunct Professor in Dallas, Texas USA.