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Nigeria’s dysfunctional healthcare delivery system and COVID-19 incubus

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COVID-19: 150m Nigerians lack access to hand-washing facilities — WaterAid

By Chiedu Uche Okoye

NIGERIA is grappling with multifarious and hydra-headed problems which are traceable to the rudderless, visionless, clueless, bumbling, inept, wasteful and corrupt political leaderships and military regimes that had existed in the country in the past. Now, one of our national problems is our depressed economy. Our economy has become stagnated owing to the mismanagement of our oil wealth by past successive military juntas and corrupt political governments over the years.

Consequently, some roads in the country have now become death-traps, what with pot-holes dotting and pock-marking them. The pitiable and unsightly state of those roads brings back memories of roads in war-torn countries. Are our leaders aware that good road network opens up a country for rapid industrialisation? And, we should not gloss over the state of our public schools, ranging from the kindergarten to the university level, not being unconscious of the fact that education is the bedrock of national development.

Is the insanitary condition as well as the pitiable condition of most public school buildings not one of the causes of the dysfunctional state of our educational system? Not surprisingly, our pupils and students attending public schools do not receive qualitative education.

More so, since our government-owned hospitals were once described as mere consulting clinics in the 1980s, the state of our healthcare delivery system hasn’t improved a bit, what with well-heeled Nigerians seeking treatments for their illness in India, Europe and America. So, today, Nigeria loses whopping sums of money yearly via medical tourism embarked on by the country’s political leaders and other well-heeled Nigerians.

In his first term in office, President Muhammadu Buhari spent considerable time in a London hospital undergoing treatment. Were our hospitals equipped with modem medical equipment and medical personnel well-motivated, majority of Nigerians would not contemplate seeking cures for their diseases in foreign countries, not to talk of their travelling to those countries for health reasons. However, sadly, the contrary obtains here.

In today’s Nigeria, doctors who work in government-owned hospitals, both at the state and federal levels, do embark on incessant industrial action to call attention to their welfare condition. Sadly, when medical practitioners down tools, this leads to loss of human lives as they are under obligation not to give medical help to those lying critically ill in hospital beds. Does this imply that our leaders lack empathy and human feeling?

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The indisputable fact is that successive political administrations in the country had failed to address holistically and comprehensively the issues impeding the growth of our health sector. That’s why highly educated and eminently qualified Nigerian medical practitioners are migrating to foreign countries in droves for greener pastures. The brain-drain or mass exodus of Nigerian medical practitioners to Europe and America has become our loss and other countries’ gains.

So, the parlous and comatose state of our health sector induced fear in us and caused panic among us when there was an outbreak of Ebola disease on the African continent in 2014. Then, a Liberian attending conference in Nigeria (who was the index case in the country) brought the dreaded and deadly disease to us. But for the professional expertise, patriotism and diligence displayed by the late Dr Stella Adedovoh, the disease could have spread to every nook and cranny of Nigeria and claimed many lives. She paid the supreme price while working to halt the spread of the disease in Nigeria. Today, Dr. Adedovoh has become a heroine and martyr for our national interests and collective good.

Now, the success we recorded in halting the spread of the Ebola disease in Nigeria in the past has imbued us with the belief and confidence that we can check the spread of the coronavirus in our country. Sadly, an Italian man has brought the disease to our shores. Another person has tested positive to it. Expectedly, Nigeria has risen up stoutly and confidently to the Covid- 19 challenge, with the quarantining and isolation of the index case in a hospital in Yaba, Lagos.

Those who came in contact with the sick and unfortunate Italian are being traced in order that they should be tested and screened for the disease. This action is in harmony with government’s effort and policy to check the spread of the hitherto incurable disease in Nigeria.

As Covid-19 disease has no known cure, we should adopt and implement measures for the early detection and isolation of those who have contracted it. This is important because it has been discovered that the early treatment of infected persons will stand them in a good stead to recover and live normal life thereafter.

Again, the entry points in the country should be adequately guarded. Visitors to the country should be screened for the disease at the international airports. Our health personnel at the airports should maintain a high level of vigilance and diligence while doing their jobs. They should know that Covid-19 has no known cure and that it has caused huge fatalities in such countries as China, Italy, Iran and others.

More importantly, governments at different levels in the country should educate the masses on the nature and symptoms of the deadly scourge called Coronavirus and sensitise them to the need to maintain a high level of personal hygiene. Efforts should not be spared to disseminate information about Covid-19 to rural dwellers. And state governors should adequately equip hospitals and train their medical personnel on how to tackle cases of Coronavirus.

We should note that contracting Coronavirus is not necessarily a death sentence. It is on record that many of those who got infected with the disease recovered from it. But our taking proactive action aimed at its containment has become an imperative. I would leave you with this message: Health is wealth.

 Okoye, a poet, wrote from Uruowulu-Obosi, Anambra State


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