Healing The Ills In The Ailing Nigerian Health System
WITHOUT mincing words, Nigerian health professionals are some of the best in the world. In Canada for instance, a Nigerian couple, both pharmacists trained at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria are blazing the trail in pharmaceutics. Between them, and their pharmaceutical company, they hold more than 50 chemotherapy patents.
That’s not all. In President Barak Obama’s administration, a Nigerian professor of oncology from the University of Ibadan, is in the United States President’s Health Advisory Committee. And who can forget Nigeria’s Medical Laboratory Scientists or Nurses in London, Riyadh, Amsterdam, Spain and the rest of the world. They are all among the best brains in the world and in the process, make us proud. No doubt, Nigeria has one of the best medical professionals globally. Unfortunately however, the nation’s health system back at home is one of the worst in the world. What a paradox! Something is definitely wrong.
I remember reading an article in the British Medical Journal several years ago. In the publication, Nigeria was presented as the African nation with the highest number of medical professionals in UK’s NHS and the writers made a case for the UK government to reach out to the Nigerian health ministries to design a working arrangement where the UK professionals would come back home to salvage the brain drain and help the sick that cannot afford to fly out of the country in search of best healthcare services available abroad.
Structurally, Nigeria has an original, perfect and realistic health system. The three tiers of health care service ensure that no matter the level an individual occupies in the economic stratosphere, there is an appreciable healthcare policy to benefit from.
But it is sad to note that Nigeria ranks high among nations with high infant and maternal mortalities. Nigeria has the second largest HIV/AIDS burden in Africa.
Outbreaks of communicable diseases such as cholera are still prevalent, just as nosocomial infections are daily on the increase as a result of poor conditions and inadequate facilities in the health facilities. Poliomyelitis which many countries have eradicated, still lives with us in Nigeria. It is noteworthy that the healing system (Health System) itself needs healing.
The health system in Nigeria is suffering from a chronic ailment that has made it difficult for it to deliver quality health to Nigerians. The major problem is that of politics. We all know that politics is everywhere. Elsewhere, democracy, especially in the developed world, enables the citizens to have and hear different opinions to develop sustainable policies.
Political parties in power therefore have the noble responsibility of ensuring that the best hands are brought on board to deliver the goods and earn the trust and mandate of electorates. This is not the case in Nigeria where positions are shared to suit political loyalists thereby mortgaging quality for political recompense.
When the president’s personal physician is made the Minister of Health and the governor’s doctor the Health Commissioner to appease god-fathers and godsons, then the health system will perpetually suffer. It is myopism to think that the best doctor must always be in charge of the nation’s health sector, forgetting the competence of other professionals like the health economists and administrators.
The Obasanjo-led administration brought a health economist and seasoned administrator on board as the Minister of Health who left with the accolades of the best health minister the country has ever produced. He ensured the upgrading of most tertiary hospitals; he instituted the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), and was part of the process that led to the formation and establishment of the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS).
He also ensured the transmogrification of NACA from a committee to a federal government agency. Soon after the expiration of his tenure, surgeons, and other medical professionals were made ministers. They all have little or nothing to show for their various tenures in office apart from corruption allegations resulting in quantum failure of the system.
This anomaly clearly shows that although the government knows who ought to be in charge, they’ve simply decided to do nothing since they rarely patronize the country’s healthcare system. Inter and intra-professional agitations, enmity and acrimony form another clog in the wheels of the Nigerian healthcare system.
The Nigerian medical team is divided against itself, and every member of the team sees the other as threat seeking to usurp the rights of others thus resulting in lizard’s territorialism mentality and other defence mechanisms.
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