9 August 2010

Nigeria: The Challenges of Public Health Delivery


The questionable state of public health delivery in Nigeria is one challenge that has medical treatment abroad. PETER ONOCHIE-IGBIDU, takes a critical look at stared the citizenry in the face for decades, especially those that cannot afford the inherent challenges and the possible way forward:

Nigeria has over the years been saddled with the problem of public health delivery, which has directly or indirectly affected millions of lives. Some have died from curable illnesses either as a result of outright neglect on the part of the physicians who are ethically vested with the responsibilities to attend to such cases with rapt attention, or due to lack of medical facilities to save such lives.

The age-long adage that 'health is wealth' is technically faulty in the Nigerian environment and has always been the other way round: "Wealth is health", because the burden of ethical and administrative inadequacies is in totality on the poor and the less privileged in our society.

While the rich ones have always found their way out of the country for their medical problems, the others on a lower stake in this important sector of our national life.

Health in every other economy of the world comes as one of the first priorities that demands resolute investment and concentration by all stakeholders, because whatever happens in this sector directly or indirectly affects the human resources of such a state and consequently on its productive output in whatever terms. But ironically, the Nigerian state has often treated health and its oval implication on the economy with levity and disdain simply because the value of human lives in this part of the world has remained on all time low in the eyes of those whose responsibility it is to make the sector functional with our God-given resources.

The patriotism and the love for this nation-state as long as health delivery is concerned, has remained in doubt. The attention of every successive government in this country has always been on the natural resources which depends on the human resources for proper harnessing and utilisation, because what they often fail to realise is that its productivity is dependent on the healthy participation of the human resources and not the opposite ideology.

The High Point

Public health delivery centres in every state of the federation have the same familiar features of neglect, obsolete and inadequate equipment, infrastructural decay, poor staffing, ill-mannered personnel, high death rates and referral cases, absence of functional and accommodating moque, daily influx of people without alternatives, low quality of service and so on.

The yearly budget allocation to the health sector has often not reflected in public health delivery due to the fact that either it is inadequate compared to the targeted expenditure, or as a result of direct misappropriation to the detriment of its supposedly beneficiaries.

Misplacement of priority is one area the Nigerian government has erred over the years and still remains unrepentant. This is because waste is the synonym of every successive government's policy in Nigeria. The reason is probably hinged on the fact that their conduit pipe to various bank accounts at home and abroad is connected to every priority misplaced or displaced.

Similarly, every medical sojourn abroad of public officers attract a weighty allowance and a good opportunity for other miscellaneous "runs" or call it hide and seek monetary adventures - an opportunity to explore, deposit or invest at the very expense of the majority of the Nigerian populace who have no such opportunity and access to the nation's treasury, but on whose labour of love and patriotism their representation in whatever capacity is dependent on . This is certainly a case of mischief and rape.

Gains & Pains

The low state of public health delivery in Nigeria is one unquantifiable hazard routinely faced by majority of the populace irrespective of age, gender, religion and ethnicity. A good number of people from all walks of life have undoubtedly tasted the bitter pills of pains and death, orchestrated by reckless abandon that has over the years characterised the health sector.

The successive governments had and has still not done well to salvage this sector from ruins and near total collapse irrespective of the high death rates being recorded yearly.

The challenges of meeting the health needs of the present population is one area the government and its agencies have failed to address and the resultant effects continuously amount to low productivity and constant economic crisis in terms of general shortage in supply with the ever increasing demand. In a similar vein, Nigeria stands a chance of being partially, if not totally extinguished in the event of a dreaded outbreak of terminal disease because of the level of unpreparedness of the health sector to surmount such unpredictable challenges. There is however no gains attached to the deficiencies and rottenness of our health sector as it stands today. It only portends danger for the living and the good of the society.

Solution Board

The responsibility of any government to its citizens is to defend their lives and protect their interest even in the face of a fierce opposition. This should be the wisdom and guiding principle of any government that is sincere and committed to national development. A healthy workforce makes a healthy and prosperous economy because it takes the human resources to harness other resources for national growth. It is however imperative to know that the importance of effective health delivery to any nation cannot be over-emphasised.

Nigeria as a sovereign state and developing economy can never attain any meaningful development goal without a healthy manpower to drive such, so for any government to make positive impact in the global economy, priority must be given to the health sector to avert some unpredictable health distractions that could put the nation in jeopardy.

By so doing, millions of avoidable deaths the nation have been recording for decades could be avoided and thereby add more incentive to the active population instead of the usual decline.

Nigeria has all what it takes to reposition the health sector for effective delivery of public health service. There is no hospital or health equipment that Nigeria cannot afford to put in place. Similarly, there is no personnel training, as well as research institution this nation would not be able to fund.

The cost of medication abroad by our government officers and their agencies, if re-channeled to our public health delivery centres would definitely go a long way in making the wrongs right.

Let every wasteful tendencies be curtailed and make good health delivery achievable, accessible and affordable to all, to meet the global health challenges and the vision 20:20:20 and Millennium Development Goals. Nigeria will indeed be better for it and life expectancy ratio will equally become remarkable in this country.

Let everyone in any leadership position that has interest of the people rise up to the challenge of providing a new platform for good public health delivery to make Nigeria and Nigerians physically, psychologically, emotionally and mentally sound.

Personnel training and research centres will no doubt boost health care delivery. All stakeholders should cultivate the love for our dear country and indeed make sincerity their watchword.

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