The health sector is a vital part of any nation -a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Sadly, Nigeria’s health sector continues to lack in quality due to government’s negligence of the sector, and this puts Nigerians at great risk.
A great responsibility lies with the Nigerian government to improve its health sector as most hospitals in the country are government-owned, and therefore caters to most Nigerians. Out of the 40,948 health facilities in Nigeria, 74% are public/government owned while 26% are privately-owned.
How the government is neglecting the health sector:
1. Poor funding and low budgeting: Health budget needs to increase as current budgeting have been insufficient for achieving a world-class technologically-driven medical sector. It is recommended by the WHO's Abuja Declaration that 15% of national budget should be allocated to the health sector, but Nigeria’s 2020 budget allocates just 4%. This 2020 healthcare budget at N427 billion translates to N2,000 for each citizen’s healthcare. Worse still, not all the funds budgeted are released; only about 60% of health sector budgeted funds have been typically released for use each year.
The saying that “if a man does not eat at home, he may never give his wife enough money to cook a good pot of soup” might just be true for Nigerian hospitals --since the rich, including government officials, always travel out for medical treatments.
2. Old infrastructures and inadequate medical facilities: Leading to little or no trust in the nation’s health sector, hence high medical tourism. In the presence of limited budget, the government needs to stimulate private investments to provide up-to-date medical facilities via public-private partnerships (PPP) agreements.
3. Low salaries for healthcare workers: This results in medical negligence and low quality of services. Note that: adequate payment for health workers can serve as a strong incentive for improving their attitudes and medical productivity.
4. Under-staffing: While Nigeria has one of the largest numbers of medical staffs in Africa, its huge population makes the number of staff insufficient to effectively deliver essential health services. The WHO estimates that at least 2.5 medical staff (physicians, nurses and midwives) are required for every 1,000 people to fully cater for primary care. But Nigeria only has 0.4 medical staff per 1000 people. More staff is needed in public hospitals.
5. Non-inclusion of research outcomes in healthcare planning: Health services research should be adopted and sponsored. This would show the specific factors that affect quality of health care in the nation and the best ways to tackle them.
In summary, prioritizing the health sector through improved budgeting and better management is important. But given limited government funding, PPPs can be adopted and incentives to private investors should be encouraged to provide affordable and high-quality medical services to Nigerians. Perhaps, Nigerians need to start condemning medical tourism by political leaders, and encourage the enactment of regulations that provide incentives for leaders to fix the healthcare system. Medical trips funded by taxpayers' money could be banned and criteria set to detail what sicknesses can be covered with public money.
Article Credit: Ndianabasi Tom