• Tony Igele

Equip Nigerian hospitals like UK’s

Reasons for this reproach are not too far to seek. In the past few decades, the health sector has been characterised by a disturbing degree of deterioration as the sector could not be compared to what was obtainable in the 1960s and 1970s due to neglect by successive administrations.

There can be no better time than now to call on the authorities in Nigeria to equip even a few Nigerian hospitals like the ones in some developed economies including the United Kingdom where most Nigerian leaders always have recourse to for medical follow-ups and treatment. This has become a reproach to the people if the government is unashamed about this development.

Reasons for this reproach are not too far to seek. In the past few decades, the health sector has been characterised by a disturbing degree of deterioration as the sector could not be compared to what was obtainable in the 1960s and 1970s due to neglect by successive administrations. This neglect has been regularly decried by citizens and medical associations in the country. Yet, there has been no definite political action to address strategic funding, in this regard passion. In fact, the nation’s health sector is groaning and now near a total collapse. And there is no glimmer of hope in spite of the billions of naira expended on some tertiary hospitals by successive administrations to equip even some teaching hospitals.

Specifically, most of the equipment said to have been installed in the selected teaching hospitals in different zones are nowhere to be found anymore as the hospital authorities have not declared them useful to deal with contemporary issues in healthcare. In fact, it appears public funds expended to equip the selected teaching hospitals at the beginning of this democracy (1999-2015) could not be accounted for.

Indeed, that the nation’s health sector is nothing to write home about is evident on so many fronts. Citizens who can afford medical treatment abroad often travel as far as India, United Arabs Emirate and Egypt for cheap medicare. The strong ones travel to Europe and North America.

But the most telling example in recent time is the treatment of our president abroad for about a quarter of a year. It is an international embarrassment and a further indictment of our health-care system managers, our leaders at all levels. It is social damage to us that we are incapable of tackling the health challenges of the number one citizen. Which speaks volumes for the fate of the rest vulnerable citizens.

As a result of this embarrassment, the NMA brought their position on the comatose health sector to the fore through a communiqué by stating that Nigerian doctors are competent to handle any form of ailments if the enabling environment and good working tools are available. Besides, the frustrated physicians said the President might have sought for medical attention outside the shores of this country as a result of ill-equipped hospitals in the country.

The Nigerian Medical Association argued that doctors in the country would have been able to handle the president’s health challenge if the health sector had been properly equipped and funded. Other factors hampering quality health care in Nigeria include obsolete equipment and the brain drain syndrome that began since 1985 no thanks to unhealthy operating environment. Again, inadequacy of medical facilities, high cost of drugs, sub-standard drugs, wrong diagnosis, poor attitude of health workers occasioned by poor remuneration and resulting in the neglect of patients by medical personnel, long waiting time for patients, etc are all responsible for the despicable healthcare situation in the country.

So, in Nigeria, patients die daily because the nation is adorned with gigantic buildings that are labelled hospitals but lack basic life saving facilities. This may account for why the NMA has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to replicate in Nigerian hospitals the medical equipment he saw in London during his treatment. The medical association officials encouraged the president to do this before the end of 2019.

This newspaper supports the clarion call on the president to utilise his positive experience in the health system of other climes, notably the United Kingdom’s to impact on the Nigerian health-care system by replicating what he experienced in London to take care of the masses who do not have the resources to fly abroad for medical care.

This is the time for the president to make health care his personal agenda, and his contribution to the growth of the Nigeria health sector. He should see his health challenge and experience in a London hospital as a wake-up call by giving attention to the health sector and revamping it, so that subsequent Nigerian presidents would not go through this embarrassment for the good of the people and the protection of the presidency. He should set up a team that can come up with pragmatic solutions for the repositioning of the health sector by looking for ingenious interventions. For instance, some specialist hospitals can be identified and positioned for a particular disease management. Besides, the health authorities in the country should strengthen Primary Healthcare for improved rural healthcare.

All told, the clarion on the president is also a call to all governors of Nigeria’s 36 states. They too always slip out of the country for medical examination. They also have a responsibility to fund modern hospitals in their states. They do not need a federal law to do that. Again, whatever happened to the University Teaching Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, which used to be a reference point as one of the best four centres of medical excellence in the Commonwealth!

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