COVID-19 Four Giveaways to Nigeria : Its time we fix the Health sector

However, the one brought by COVID-19 is indeed a giveaway that benefits everyone regardless of religion, tribe, or social class. Everyone is a beneficiary.

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in January with Nigeria having its taste of the crisis in March. A situation that started as something warm has suddenly seen us close schools, markets, and normal businesses save for essential business such as foods, with the confirmed numbers gradually moving towards 300.

While many have argued that the Federal Government was not proactive enough, it is even shocking to note that there are countries like Sweden who do not even observe the total lockdown as researchers have questioned the necessity for the total lockdown when a second approach could have been adopted.
The researchers and their critics nonetheless is either a make or mar for Sweden and may not be a Nigerian problem.

Since the lockdown announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday, 28th of March, 2020, two states-Lagos and Ogun- plus the Federal Capital Territory have been on Total Lockdown. Over the space of two weeks, some State Governors have also imposed movement restrictions in their respective domains.

However, as the scenario unfolds, with no end in sight, we are all at the mercy of providence with our hopes high that the pandemic will eventually serve its time and leave. However, ditto that time, COVID-19 has indeed opened our eyes as Nigerians to a lot of things. For the next four weeks, I will be sharing with us the 4 giveaways granted to us especially by the pandemic which we must take with all gratitude during this crisis and work on Post COVID-19.

As much as the average Nigerian think that hospitals are in bad shape, the reality is that the totality of the Health sector whether Public or Private is in shambles (Save for a few). The structure, organization, and welfare of personnel in the health sector needs to revised and immediately remodified to what is obtainable in at least Sudan and some other African countries with a better health system (In tears).

The Former President of Sudan Omar El-Bashar with all his shortcomings was not known as a medical tourist. It saddens one like every other citizen that the Secretary to the Federal Government seems ignorant of the extent of the decay in a sector that is as important as the economy of every Nation. One may applaud this honorable public servant for being aware of a decay but not the extent. However, if not for the inability of the SGF to kill the urge to look nice, that statement was unwarranted.

Doomsday numbers of Child mortality and collapsed health structure are always tagged with our health system, despite our position as the unrivaled sleeping giant of Africa. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) has become an agency where our health comes second to the survival of whoever heads the agency. Its always a Tug of war between two elephants with the supposed beneficiaries left to suffer like prisoners of war.

It is not enough to build more hospitals, nor enough to bring more doctors into the system, there is a dying need to look into the welfare of health personnel. The remuneration of doctors in Nigeria is even more pathetic and nothing to write home about.

After the health Minister goofed by displaying his ignorance publicly, it will amaze one that ironically, honey and meat are abundant in Nigeria,  yet the nation suffers hunger and plays politics with everything.

In sectors like Health, certifications alone do not help. A professor of Medicine is not enough reason to put that person in the position of a Health Minister, if not why would a former health Minister downplay the need to practice as required in the field of medicine. The position of the Minister of Health must be headed by a sage who has diverse experience in and out of the Hospital, not an administrator nor an operating specialist, but a combination of both.  This vice shows Nigeria has a long way to go if the country refuses to fix with both hands the rot in the health sector.

In fixing the system, every hand must be on deck.  Donate during a crisis is good CSR but the best CSR is averting a crisis. It is time the private sectors who have enjoyed tax holidays from the government join hands with the government to fix the sector.

From building standard hospitals, employing qualified personnel, fixing the issue of a national health database, down to the welfare of health workers, its time to avoid blaming the government and expecting them to do all the work.

If the billionaires can come out during this pandemic to support the government, we expect nothing short of the same energy, contributing their quota to avert the next pandemic which we know not of its nature or the time it will come. The need to act proactively is now, our goose-chasing approach may be an approach too late to avert the consequences of not being proactive. Its never too late now, but it may be too late later. Now is the time to fix the Health sector.

ISSA, Abdulganiyu Omotosho, a Public Analyst, Political commentator and an M.Sc. candidate in one of Nigeria’s foremost Institutions.