A tale of Nigeria’s health care…
Economist: My Brilliant Citizen, it has been a while… Where have you been?
Brilliant Citizen: (Looking around to be sure there is no crowd) My dear, I have been mainly indoors ooo, you know with this corona virus, it is best to mind one’s business and limit movement.
Economist: Haaaa, so you have not been going to work and living a productive life?
Brilliant Citizen: Please health first before money or anything. Thankfully, I am on leave so no reason to go out!
Economist: Ok that explains it. Please resume back at work, Nigeria is able to contain the virus like we did Ebola * strong hands*
Brilliant Citizen: Haa, this one is different o, even the developed countries are getting hit hard by the virus, talk less of Nigeria. I don’t trust our medical system, for me, it is in shambles!!!
Economist: How do you mean? You know I am an Economist, not a medical practitioner.
Brilliant Citizen: You don’t need to be a medical practitioner to know, you just need to visit one of our General hospitals and you will see the evidence there.
Economist: Hmmm, tell me more…
Brilliant Citizen: So I can teach my teacher something (grinning sheepishly) Anyway, this one is first-hand experience!
“I took a sick friend to a hospital. Before that, he had complained of stomach ache for 2 days and had gone to the pharmacist, got some drugs plus pain killers which he used. After 2 days, the pain worsened ooo. He was staying at my place and since I didn’t want him to die in my house, I insisted I take him to the hospital”
Can you guess what?
Economist: You went to a private hospital and saw a doctor that treated him?
Brilliant Citizen: How!!! You are one of the few citizens that have eermm what is it called again that allows you go to afford private hospital?
Economist: Health insurance you mean
Brilliant Citizen: Yes ,that’s it. How much are we earning that we can go to the private hospital? My salary plus his own for 2 months will finish with just one visit to a private hospital.
So anyway, back to the story… “When we got to the General hospital, they asked if we had hospital card? I said No. At this point, my friend could barely speak, he was in lots of pains. I paid for the card, thankfully it was not expensive. Ok, let us see the doctor now. We were asked to sit down and wait. After about 45 minutes, I was told that the facility was under renovation hence they could not conduct the required test. I said how is that possible, can we at least see a doctor? I was given a number that indicated 114. 114 I inquired? …and was bold enough to ask how many doctors were available.. I was told only 2 were around and they were on number 24. I unconsciously scratched my head and knew we were in big trouble!!”
Economist: Ooh No! What did you do? How did it turn out?
Brilliant Citizen: “My dear, it was not a funny matter o. I miraculously saw a former secondary school classmate who worked in the hospital. He assisted in helping us see a doctor quickly. I can’t imagine what would have happened to my friend. Thank God !”
Economist: I am happy you were able to resolve it.
Brilliant Citizen: Do you know he told us we were lucky to meet him in the hospital as that was his final week with the hospital? He told us he was relocating like many of his former colleagues to Saudi Arabia. He had secured the appointment letter from there some months back and recently secured his visa. He was so happy!
Economist: Happy to leave the hospital or the country?
Brilliant Citizen: The two of them! He told me the amount he collects in this hospital and country relative to what he would earn was completely opposite. He said there is no way he would have earned this in the next 20 years of his career in this country!
Economist: Ok, it was basically based on money earned.
Brilliant Citizen: No ooo, He also said over here he sees up to 80 patients daily with poor equipment and sometimes no light! Over there, his colleagues see less than 10 patients in a day with good quality medical equipment. He also noted opportunities for growth over there! He could easily get a postgraduate training within a short period and increase his earning power too. My dear, he sounded like he had just hit the jackpot!
Economist: Ok but how do we resolve the problem in the Nigerian Health system?
Brilliant Citizen: You tell me, if our President is traveling for medical care, who can help us?
Economist: Let’s think around what needs to be done…..
Brilliant: You do the thinking since I have been talking since….
Economist: Ok that’s fine. We need more equipment in our hospitals right? (Brilliant Citizen nods his head) So, we need the government to spend more in the health sector.
Brilliant Citizen: May be that would help, but the crowd in the government hospitals are at another level ooo
Economist: Yes, but I think it is because everyone goes to the general hospital whether it is for headache, stomach ache or milder illnesses. Every Local Government is expected to have at least one PHC (Primary Health Centre). They need to be functional and well equipped for people to use them. This would significantly reduce the crowd at the General Hospitals. Also, we need health insurance to be available to the common Nigerian….
What else can be done? How do we get the young doctors to stay in Nigeria?
Brilliant Citizen: That one is hard ooo. You need to revamp the entire sector — provide a robust health insurance system that generates money. Good pay and improved salary structure comparative to other countries, good working conditions, easier access to training for career advancement and of course the other things you said.
Economist: I agree with you. So who’s job is it to do all this?
Brilliant Citizen: Well, certainly not my job. A lot lies with the government doing the right things.
Economist: Not just the government always. Let’s attract investment in the medical sector and leverage on technology to provide good services.
Brilliant Citizen: Ok ooo. I wish you the very best! Me, I just may be looking for opportunities outside the country after this corona virus.
Special thanks to Wale Olusi, Abraham Afariogun and Seun for their contribution to this article.
Reference: Nigeria Health Watch Our bleeding wound: Are Nigeria’s doctors justified for leaving?