16 dead, 321 confirmed cases
By Chioma Obinna
President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Prof Innocent Ujah on Monday disclosed that no fewer than 1,031 doctors in Nigeria have been exposed to coronavirus in the country while 16 mortality cases were recorded as of 8th October 2020, putting the mortality rate at 4.98 per cent. The NMA president also decried the underfunding of the health sector in the country.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos to announce the NMA 2020 Physicians’ Week with the theme ‘’Strategy for health system recovery during the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria” and sub-theme: “Dental caries: The four-pronged fork.” Ujah said out of the 1,031 cases, 321 were confirmed while 16 doctors were painfully lost in the battle.
Ujah who expressed sadness over the deaths of their members described it as the prize they have to pay in obedience to the Hippocratic Oath of their profession.
Stating that COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of health systems around the world, he said many health systems across the world were overwhelmed by the pandemic due to inadequate emergency preparedness and response, largely due to inadequate human resources, infrastructural deficit and medical consumables, including personal protective equipment and other Protective Equipment.
He pointed out that most countries like Nigeria are suffering due to gross underfunding of the health sector is a major factor.
Recalling that 19 years ago, precisely on the 27th of April 2001, African governments made a historic pledge in Abuja to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the health sector, he queried what has become the agreement known as the ‘Abuja Declaration’.
He said “No disease has ever before laid bare the state of the country’s health sector like Covid-19. COVID-19 has revealed acute shortages of critical and lifesaving equipment such as ventilators and intensive care beds in our Hospitals.”
Ujah added that the dire shortages of medical capacity have further put a spotlight on the poor state of health in Nigeria and the distance to travel to ensure that health care is affordable and accessible to all citizens for Universal Health Coverage (UHC) to be achieved.
“At the heart of the fragile health systems is the perennial failure of governments to prioritise health and allocate adequate resources to it. Nigeria’s, allocation to health in 2020 was a mere 4.16% of the budget and it is unpredictable how much of the fund would be released for the care of the people of Nigeria.”
He further stated that the COVID-19 pandemic must jolt the Nigerian government to adequately invest in healthcare systems., adding that the scaring statistics of health indicators in the country that have been worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic was unacceptable to Nigerian doctors.
“We must reverse this ugly trend very quickly since there is no time to waste anymore. For Nigeria to achieve this objective of improved health care will involve Health strengthening using the six core components (building blocks) of service delivery, health workforce, health information systems, improving access to essential medicines, paying more attention to healthcare financing, and ensuring good governance in leadership at all levels.
“We must honour our constitution and the international human rights treaties we have ratified that guarantee all the right to health. The Abuja Declaration is a significant political commitment that supports African countries’ obligations to fulfill the right to health. COVID-19 must mark a turning point for healthcare financing and healthcare services. “
Ujah said for the government to provide accessible and affordable health care for its people, the National Health Insurance Scheme must be made compulsory for all adult Nigerians, as well as the establishment of Health Bank and intensification of Public-Private Policy (PPP).