Nigeria: Who Will Fix Our Health System?

5 August 2021
editorial

THE question of who will fix our health system has become germane as it appears that those given the mandate to do so have abdicated their responsibility.

President Muhammadu Buhari has not shown any interest in fixing our health system. After six years in office, he has continued to fly to foreign countries for medical treatments. Even right now, as the 16,000-strong members of the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, once again, abandoned their duty posts over poor conditions of service, the president is in London for a two-week medical vacation.

Last year, NARD and other medical associations embarked on strike three times even as the corona virus pandemic invaded our ill-prepared health system. This NARD strike is also coming at the onset of the third wave of the pandemic, thus leaving the ordinary people at great risk.

This NARD strike was precipitated by the continued failure of the Federal Government to implement agreements reached with the Association, 113 days after the last strike was suspended. The President of the Association, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, has also lamented that only one out of the 19 families of doctors who died while treating COVID-19 patients has received the death-in-service insurance benefits.

Some state governments have failed to pay the salaries and entitlements of medical doctors in their employ for months on end. These reportedly include Abia, Ondo, Ekiti, Kogi, Imo, Anambra and Edo states. Indeed, the "hunger virus" is real among our public sector medical professionals.

We join Okhuaihesuyi in posing the question: "When will our government become responsible enough to solve the challenges facing the health sector"?

Because of the general lack of will to address the myriads of lacks in our healthcare system, Nigeria-trained medical doctors and other health personnel have been moving in droves to other countries for greener pastures, thus worsening the acute shortfall of personnel to grapple with the needs of our public sector healthcare system.

The most shameful thing is that the Nigerian government has once again, shown its inability to honour agreements reached with unions to end strikes. This is the main reason why government employees in the health and education sectors go on strike every year.

Hardly does a year pass without the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and similar unions in the educational sector going on strike because governments sign agreements without the intention of keeping their word.

It is the ordinary people who cannot afford to pay for foreign and private medical and educational services that are victimised each time these social sector professionals down tools. Nigerians must put more pressure on government and force them to do their jobs.

Abandoning our doctors alone to fight for their rights through strikes exposes the most vulnerable members of our society to needless, untimely death.

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