By Albert Afeso Akanbi
I came to terms with how urgently whoever it is that is in control of Nigeria today, needed to declare a state of emergency on the health sector. Nigerian leaders should see this as an act of service, not just for Nigerians, but for themselves as well.
Although I am not a stranger to the fact that Nigeria is in bad shape, I got the rudest confirmation yet of this truth today, after experiencing first hand what it meant to have a patient in one’s hands, in an emergency situation, and yet be made to wait in the merciless environment we call hospitals in Nigeria today, endlessly in a queue for hours, just to have a doctor attend to one…
It was like a scene from a war movie inwhich wounded soldiers were being evacuated to make shift hospital tents, patients were not allowed into the hospital (Lasuth, Ikeja), cars and ambulances lined the entrance to the emergency section, and we were sorrounded by poorly trained hospital personnel (one of which even got into a quarrel with the family member of a patient when, in response to the frustration of the man who had a dying patient, he asked the man to fuck off) who didn’t seem to care how critical the illness of most patients might be, so much so that a patient, a woman who only moments before was talking with her children, even died suddenly before our eyes.
In summary, I came to terms with how urgently who ever it is that is in control of Nigeria today, needed to declare a state of emergency on the health sector. Nigerian leaders should see this as an act of service, not just for Nigerians, but for themselves as well.
The day before had been hectic, from huge traffic to a car (though brand new) that suddenly developed a fault. And the patient was in pain and was having laboured breathing…After running all kinds of test costing almost 200k, after visiting about five hospitals, from Saint Ives in Ikeja through Eko Hospital to LASUTH, all of them in Nigeria’s commercial capital, we were given all manner of reasons to turn us back, from “we only offer skeletal services” to “we have no bed spaces” and then to confirm that, we were shown some sick patients who were made to sleep on the bare floor…how can anyone, not to talk of doctors for that matter, turn away a sick patients who had difficulty breathing (please take note that it is not Covid 19, from the tests conducted we knew what the issue is) and was in pain? What sort of hospital does that?
Frustrated, I had to engage one of the doctors and some of the things I learnt shocked me.
Do you know that for a country of over 200 million people like Nigeria there are only 72,000 registered doctors in the country today? All the others have emigrated and continue to make plans to emigrate abraod in search of better opportunities because of poor working conditions here…and do you know that the rot in our health sector is due, mainly to massive corruption and sadly too, that it is still business as usual for those in charge of Nigeria today?
Our hospitals remain grossly inadequate, poorly equipped and underfunded. Today, for every 6,000 Nigerian patients, it is one doctor who attends to them in hospitals that are mere glorified First Aid centres. Yet, the World Health Organisation recommends a doctor to, at most 600 patients for every country, and there are even countries with 1 to, say, 20 or 30 patients.
Our primary health care system has collapsed. Even doctors who are patriotic enough to stay are not motivated, just name it, the problems are endless.
Despite a gross lack of basic amenities like potable water and electricity, medical supplies and equipments, we continue to see budgetary allocation by the Federal Government running into billions, where have all the funds gone?
Today, Nigerians who can afford to, escape overseas for medical tourism, including President Muhammadu Buhari, who is the biggest medical tourist from Nigeria until Covid 19 thought him how to stay glued to Aso Rock from where he now precides over the affairs of Nigeria.
As president, his vantage position saddles him with the task of providing a radical solution to this problem, yet, in the last 6 years, he has shown he prefers foreign hospitals and looking the other way as corruption ravages our health sector.
We don’t need to go far memory lane too, to remember how, bringing late President Umaru Yar’Adua home nearly dead from a Saudi Arabia hospital in 2010, exposed the sordid and depressing state of our health sector. Covid 19 too has also confirmed what we already know about our health sector, yet our leaders seem helpless or choose inaction.
Nigerian universities have been training doctors for years, where have all the doctors gone? 72,000 doctors for a population of over 200 million people!
And because of this extreme shortage of doctors, nurses and quacks today set up thier own hospitals and yet continue to get massive patronage…it is on record that in this same country, a Chief of Staff to the president and a former governor both died because they could not be flown abraod for treatment. The list of public officials who run off abraod for treatment daily is endless.
And everyday, countless ordninary Nigerians die from avoidable causes, the government set up NHIS, corrupt politicans hijacked the program, and today, do not cease to embezzle monies deducted from Nigerian workers for NHIS, yet, we all carry on as if all is well…instead of declaring a state of emergency on the health sector, our senators are fighting NDDC, and Keyamo over issues that bothers on self interest and money…even the supposed head of our anti corruption agency, EFCC is in the dock for corruption himself…
When will Nigerians wake up and demand a nation that we all can be proud of? Is it when we are all dead?
GOD help US…
Albert Afeso Akanbi is a Public Affairs Analyst.