Talking about the Nigeria’s Health System

The Ills in the Nigeria Ailing Health System – Can they be healed?

Whenever one thinks about the Nigeria’s health system, the first thing that comes to mind is the ills in this system: the unending crisis, the unhealthy rivalry amongst the professionals and the pitfalls in each profession. Can these issues be really ironed out? Can they be made non-issues?

Adeyeye Adetunji Tam in his publication in the MLSCN journal says the Nigeria healing system needs healing – what a paradox! It is however the only truth. How can a sick system provide health-care service to people?

I would want to point at this juncture the major contributing factors: politics, education of these health professionals, inter- and intra-professional agitations.

Looking at politics, one would see that our political system is not the type that looks into the interest of the masses. Almost all aspect of the economy has been politicized. How would politics of ‘god-fatherism’ and ‘god-sonship’ bring out the best for the interest of the society? Here we have a scenario where the minister must be an acquaintance with the president and the commissioner must be an acquaintance with the governor; capability of such persons not being put into consideration. We live in a generation of the society where acquaintances are certificates, capability, experience, gate-pass and what have you. And I ask, when will this ‘collabo’ end?

Why must our people, especially our leaders, seek for healthcare outside Nigeria, when Nigeria has most of the world best brains in healthcare? Why have our leaders thrown sanity and their sense of reasoning away? Why are they leading us to bioterrorism, instead of the promised healthcare they always put in their manifestos?

A visit to our health centres would make one shed tears; the state of these facilities! It is disheartening that even our tertiary health centres are not well-equipped. You would shriek that even preliminary health services that were to be given in primary health centres cannot be given in a tertiary health centre. And I ask, where are we going to? Do we really have a destination?

What about our health institutions?

Grossly dilapidated and poorly equipped schools are what we have as our health institutions and schools. The training is basically practical, but what do you see? Students are forced to understand their courses even without practicals. That is why you see someone who was very good in school not able to handle simple instruments in the hospital. Can you give what you don’t have? Do you blame the students?

Talking about the inter and intra-professional rivalry, I would say that it is the bane of progress of health sector in Nigeria. The scriptures tell us that a house that is divided against itself cannot stand. How can health professionals work as a team with these agitations and enmity, with this unhealthy rivalry that is adding salt to the already existing sore already created by our leaders? How can we say that the patient is our number one priority when we inflict both psychological and physical trauma on them. A patient is in intensive care unit and because health workers are on strike, he is left abandon. It is clear that our pockets are our priority. There’s this panic that always engulfs me when I think about the attitudes of health-care providers towards their patients. And I often ask myself how many health-care providers would really enter heaven? The type of training we go through in our schools, sorry to say, sometimes make us lose some parts of our humanity, that we only see human beings as experimental objects. As the Igbo proverb would say, ‘E buru ozu onye ozoo dika nku ka e bu’ – meaning another person’s corpse looks like firewood.  We have become so conversant with sick people, dead bodies that we no longer view them as sick and dead.

The competition amongst us is not helping issues because everyone claims to be the ultimate. We don’t want to take suggestions from our colleagues; we don’t want to work as a team and so the patient continues to suffer. We do what we call in Igbo, ‘Onye kwuru oto, a kwatuo ya, somu bu eze ga-akwu oto’ – whoever that stands, I shall pull down; I the king, shall stand.’

I’ve seen a case where the physician rejected the suggestion of a medical lab. scientist that would have helped the patient – this is ego display. A pregnant woman, after being referred to another health centre by the physician, had her delivery taken by the nurses. What did the doctor do? He queried those nurses claiming why should they take the delivery of a case he had referred already? And I ask, the oath of service we take, is it an oath of ego display?  Is it an oath of incessant striking? Is it an oath of unending agitations, unending selfish requests?  We had better known that health-care delivery system is more humanitarian than money-making system.

The unhealthy rivalry among health professionals has resulted in uncountable cases of deaths, misdiagnosis and missed diagnosis; such that the unenlightened patients attribute all their ailments to spiritual causes.

A greater percentage of them would never accept to visit a hospital when they are sick because they have lost confidence in health professionals.  I would end with these sayings:

“A doctor is a potential patient

A medical lab scientist is a potential patient

A pharmacist can be a patient

A nurse would one day be nursed by another person

A physiotherapist and a radiographer would one day need the services of another health workers.”

Chinenye H.G Ofokansi

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