COVID-19 and Nigeria’s healthcare system

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SIR: The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has pointed to the vulnerability of our country and our political leaders are not left out of its impacts in any way. Amidst several other recent cases such as Ebola, Lassa Fever, Cholera etc., it should serve as a wakeup call to us. As citizens, we make urgent passionate appeals to our political leaders to take the important and immediate steps to improve our health sector, for the benefit of all. For several years, politicians have taken Nigerians on long tortuous journeys. They often come during campaigns to give numerous unfulfilled promises on the provision of affordable and quality healthcare. This is a frequently rehearsed jingle every four years at the end of which they leave the system worse than ever.

Now we have a situation in which all of us, the rulers and ruled, rich and not so rich, elites and masses, old and young have been consigned to embrace our mediocre health facilities.

In fact, the present situation proves our politicians, persons of high net worth and other elites are at greater risks than most other Nigerians. This class of Nigerians are now witnessing situations in which airports all over the world are on shutdown. The hospitals in the various foreign lands they often run to at the slightest aches are overwhelmed with high numbers of patients from COVID-19. These hospitals would rather give priority to their ailing citizens than attend to an aristocratic foreigner or a political leader that failed to provide good and affordable healthcare for his or her country’s citizens.

We pray that our leaders, if and when this scourge passes over, will heed the warnings and be more responsible to this country. Nigerians have over the years shown that they are contented people and only request for the very basic things of life – affordable shelter and healthcare, good roads, quality education and regular power supply. These are basic social infrastructure which other countries have taken for granted but which remain elusive to us even in the 21st century. There is really no rocket science to providing world class public health system for the country, even in the face of our current economic realities.

A healthy nation they say, is a wealthy nation. If Nigerians have access to good, functioning, reliable and efficient health facilities, they will be well enough to contribute meaningfully to economic diversification. Our healthcare professionals will also cease to seek for greener pastures in foreign lands if the hospitals they work in, are standard, well-equipped and truly world class. The assurance of good healthcare system will equally help in instilling confidence in our security personnel who put down their lives for this country. The holistic benefit of a good healthcare system would positively impact all other facets of our lives as Nigerians.

I will like to offer some very basic suggestions on the steps which our governments particularly the Federal Government can take going forward. The federal government must establish at the minimum three world class hospitals in the country. One each along the three old regional divisions. There are existing, desolate federal government buildings spread across these regions that can be put to such use. The Independence Building, Old Federal Secretariat, Ikoyi are a few examples in Lagos. There are many similar properties in different parts of the country. Our political office holders, most especially states and federal legislators, must brace up for some pay cuts and an end must be put to all ‘imaginary’ constituencies projects funded from our states and national budgets. Let the arm of government tasked with the responsibility provide the facilities we require. Now is the time for us to adopt lean management and channel our resources away from wastes but to purposeful and purposive uses.

If indeed our leaders heed the lessons from this COVID-19, we should within the next 12 months at the most, witness significant changes to our healthcare infrastructure. Should we fail, the next virus pandemic will not take a century to arrive and it could be worse than COVID-19.

 

  • Wale Soneye, Lagos.