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COVID-19 and the health sector

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Sir: The maxim “Health is Wealth” implies that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Ironically, the health systems in Nigeria depict pitiable condition and left much to worry about. The primary health centres in the rural areas designed to provide quality health care to the rural populace are in dearth of health facilities and medical equipment due to poor funding and neglect by the government.

More worrisome is the inability of the health workers to discharge their duties professionally and efficiently due to shortage of personal protective equipment and inadequate drugs. More often than not, patients with minor ailment seeking medical attention are either half-treated or referred to private hospitals. This often results to untimely death of many since they could not afford the exorbitant bills of such private hospitals.

On the other hand, the tertiary health care centres in the urban areas designed to provide health care to the urban populace are not left out. Most of the facilities in these hospitals are obsolete and dysfunctional and could not contend with modern medicine. The poor states of these facilities are due to inadequate funding by the government.

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No wonder, top government functionaries continually jet out of the country to Europe for medical attention at any slight illness. Sadly, the travel and medical expenses incurred are at the expense of tax payer’s money thus further exacerbating our parlous economy. Conversely, the non-challant attitude of government towards funding and equiping our medical centres with modern facilities have plunged the health sector to the brim of its precipice amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Like a smoldering inferno whose embers are continuously stocked, the coronavirus spreads like wild fire ravaging humanity and global economies.

Incidentally, the coronavirus is non-selective, non-discriminative pandemic that knows no bounds and there is no safe haven globally. Therefore, infected nations have no choice but to galvanised huge resources to equip their health centres to combat the disease. Ironically, infected persons, irrespective or status, wealth and influence are ‘flown’ to secluded medical facilities – the isolation centre, for medical attention and treatment. This is a wake-up call to all and sundry that nobody is an indispensible idol. Most vulnerable and endangered species to the virus are the frontline health workers that were hitherto relegated to the backstage in teams of welfare package.

Their frequent agitations for better wage and conducive work environment as obtained in other clime fell on government (past and present) deaf ears until recently.

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However, it is heartwarming that the present government has up their morale with hazard allowance and life insurance packages. Thanks to COVID-19 pandemic. Undoubtedly, the coronavirus pandemic has really challenged and compelled the government at all levels to come to terms with the realities of the state of medical centres in the country. The establishment of state-of-the-art health facilities by the government in the isolation centres (tertiary health care centres) to combat the virus to a standstill is apt, timely and worthy of commendation. This should also be extended to primary health care centres.

However, to halt the spread of the virus and win the war against the faceless monster everybody must assume responsibility and adhere strictly to government protocols.

For emphasis, they include: regular hand washing with soap under running water, use of sanitizers, maintaining individual distancing and wearing of nose mask in the public. With all these protocol in our arsenal, it is hoped that the virus will be relatively contained.

Finally, the health authorities as post-COVID-19 measures should complement government huge investment thus far by adopting high maintenance culture to safeguard the health facilities on a sustainable basis.

Sunny Awazie wrote from Umuahia, Abia State.

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