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NigeriaDecides2023

For our personal health to thrive, a functioning healthcare system is key

Personal health refers to the ability to take charge of your health by making conscious decisions to be healthy. It isn’t only about the wellbeing of the body alone but also about your mental health which is a course I have been championing for several years. It also includes other areas like occupational, social, emotional, spiritual and economic aspects of your personal existence.

As I will be a frequent writer of this section in Women’s Hub, let me start by calling the government to order on the state of our health care system in Nigeria. For our personal health to be okay, it shouldn’t be disrupted by an ineffective health care system but sadly, that is the case.

It’s going to be another day of celebration for Nigeria as October 1st 2022, a day to celebrate Nigeria’s independence is here again, and this comes with all the different shades of merriment.

With COVID-19 global pandemic still ongoing, and the nature of our fragile healthcare sector, you will think the government should be more proactive in ensuring this system is prioritised and fixed because we all know that health is wealth, but no! because there is a toxic mix of problems plaguing our society from poor hygiene, inaccessibility of quality health care, corruption, malnutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water, poor health infrastructure, fake drugs, insufficient financial investments, and lack of sufficient health personnel.

Our government’s performance in the health sector has been abysmal and this is quite unfortunate being a Nigerian. Investment in infrastructure has been poor, and meager remuneration for health workers has created a massive brain drain and exodus to the USA, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Europe.

The annual budget of the government for the health sector is approximately 5% which is less that the agreed 15% as pledged in the Abuja declaration of 2001 by the AU countries. Till date, only 2 countries in Africa have been able to achieve that, Rwanda and South Africa where Nigeria is supposed to be the ‘Giant of Africa’.

Read also: Mental Health and Employees’ Productivity in Today’s Workplace.

There is hardly a year that passes without a major national strike by health workers. There is an ongoing one by the National Association of Resident doctors, NARD for the past 2months.

The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector. Unfortunately, many Nigerians cannot afford private hospitals because they are simply too expensive.

Financing has been shown to be a major problem for patients in Nigeria because of out of pocket payment in order to access quality healthcare. With this in mind, one would think that management of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) through the Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) would help people secure better quality health care. Lack of political will and corruption have crushed this opportunity and made quality medical care inaccessible for people who contributed to the system.

The health sector, just like other key sectors in the country such as education has failed largely due to inept leadership. It’s a shame our health system is failing. The multilateral organisations and donor countries that are also beginning to go through donor fatigue are aware of these challenges, but there’s little they can do to improve the situation.

Way Forward

I’m a very proud Nigerian doctor living and working in Nigeria because not all of us will japa (relocate). I strongly believe we need all hands on deck for Nigeria policymakers, the health professionals, including those in the diaspora to come together and create a long-term blueprint for the sector.

This should include a strategy for success in the next 20-30 years with timelines and key performance indicators. This blueprint must be followed through to include health care financing, universal health coverage among others a reality. It’s only through this we can begin to see a more productive Nigerian for a healthy society.

Dr. MAYMUNAH YUSUF KADIRI is a multiple award-winning Consultant Neuro-Psychiatrist with almost 20 years experience as a practising Physician. She is the Medical Director and Psychiatrist-In-Chief at Pinnacle Medical Services, Nigeria. A trained and certified Rational Emotive and Cognitive Behavioural Therapist from Albert Ellis Institute, New York, USA. She is also a certified Trauma Counsellor and Neurofeedback Practitioner.

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