…say Togo, Ghana, S/Africa far better

… bemoan medical tourism by elites

…rate infant, maternal mortality high

… launch N10bn project implementation funds to improve healthcare delivery system

By Levinus Nwabughiogu

Harsh living conditions in Nigeria have now put life expectancy at 54 years, the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGMPN) has said.

The association rated countries like Togo, Ghana and South Africa ahead of Nigeria in the expectancy.

Address a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the President of the association, Dr Iyke Do said anyone who beats the age would have broken the jinx.

He however said that respite was underway if the government and all the stakeholders can come together to reinvent the healthcare sector.

Odo regretted the backwardness and infrastructural dilapidation in the country, saying that hitherto, Ghanaians, Saudi Arabians and Indians had Nigeria as their destination for healthcare deliveries.

He said: “Anywhere you go in the world, statistics, indices show that Nigeria has one of the lowest life expectancy rates. What does that mean? On the average, how long are you expected to live as a Nigerian given the life support, welfare system available, the quality of life, cost of living, given the leadership, environment and all that around an average Nigerian? You are expected to live for 54 years.

“And if you are more than 54, it means you have broken the jinx. You have defiled Nigeria to survive more than it expects you to survive or live. Togo here has a higher life expectancy. Ghana has much higher life expectancy. Go down to South Africa, much higher. It is a burden to us as doctors.

“Take that away, maternal mortality rate, infant mortality rate, Nigeria has about the highest in the world. It is a scourge, a big dent on our collective psyche and pride as a nation. It means that more women in pregnancy die in Nigeria than they do in most part of the world. It also shows that more children under the age of 5 die in Nigeria than they do in most part of the world.

“Nigeria was ahead of India many years ago. Indians were coming to Nigeria for their healthcare. Saudi Arabia had Nigeria as a destination. The king of Saudi was coming to Ibadan with his family for treatment in the 70s. History is straight. Ghanaians, South Africans, Indians were coming here. So, what has happened? Like in any race, if the man in fronts gets tired sooner than he should or stumbles and falls, the competitors behind, naturally, will cruise past him. I think this what has happened.

“Over N500 billion is spent abroad by Nigerians who go abroad for treatment and go for treatment that should be given here. We have lost confidence and trust in our local care delivery.”

Odo also bemoaned the sorry state of healthcare system in Nigeria, saying that many Nigerian doctors were frustrated, a sad development he said, was pushing them to leave Nigeria in search of greener pastures.

He said: “Doctors are shutting down. Some are selling their clinics and leaving this country. It is a challenge we must all rise to as a nation. We do not have enough doctors. The few we have are leaving in droves.

“If you Interview 10 Nigerian doctors as we speak, 6 will tell you they are still because they have not found visa. It is a calamity indeed. It is the biggest disease we have now because, by the way we are going, soon, we may have to import doctors to treat Nigerians. Things are getting bad. We must act fast.

“Why are Nigerian doctors going abroad? Is it because there are no patients in Nigeria? No. There are too many here in Nigeria. We weep in our hearts because those of us who are remaining behind are overburdened. There is too much work to be done because we are working too hard with barehand. Society changes everyday and every generation meets its own challenges with its peculiar available means of serving them.

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“Medicine today is not what it was 50 years ago. Now, you can sit in your house in Abuja and perform and operation on somebody in Lagos by robotics. Telemedicine has come to stay. Now, you can stay in your consulting room, watching the screen of your computer and see a a patient 2000 miles away, take the history and examine him or her and do your prescription. The difference between the Nigerian doctor and his counterpart abroad is nothing more than technology. The Nigerian doctor is better trained because what you lack in equipment, you acquire in skill and physical competency.

“Nigerians go abroad and they rule and dominate. They are the best hands because they work with the skill, competency and technology. We know where the difference is. And that’s why we will continue to preach to the government to provide to not only provide this infrastructure but to support the private sector to transform the healthcare delivery system”.

Against this background, the AGMPN President said that the association will be launching a N10 billion Project Implementation Fund to rescue the country from its healthcare woes.

He urged Nigerians to contribute and own the project.

According to him, the project which will be formally unveiled in May this year will run for 5 years, spanning across the 6 geopolitical zones of the country.

“The Indian experience is not magic or miracle. It is the effect of the intentional effort of the government and its people to revamp, redesign and restructure, reclaim and redefine the healthcare delivery system. They took a decision to make India the healthcare destination for the world and they gave a new meaning to medical tourism. Today, the world is going to India. Nigerians now have it as a dream to go to India for treatment. What happened to India can happen even more in Nigeria.

“We are challenged and we are very concerned as doctors because we are in the midst of these. We see these happen. We do much we can but we cannot do more than we can. The government of the day is doing its best but we believe that collectively, working together, each man bringing his bit to the table, we owe this country and can give the country much more than it is getting.

“That’s why as the peoples doctor, the frontline doctors, primary care givers, the people with the entire family of Nigerians, we have taken the bull by the horn. And we intend on May 25, 2021, we as members of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners will be hosting Nigerians. We want to come and ventilate our thoughts, cross pollinate our ideas and decide amongst ourselves which way we think we can support the government of Nigeria much more than sitting and complaining and pointing fingers. We want to establish a private sector perspective to the healthcare delivery system of Nigeria.

“There is no healthcare system working the way it should work that is not private sector driven. But the private sector cannot stand on nothing. It will stand on a consolidated environment, prepared by government: Infrastructure, economic dynamics, the legislature, power, water, utilities, security, peace and all that it takes to have a human society. Put those in place, the private sector will drive the economy.

“We will be launching a N10billion Project Implementation Fund to cover these areas I have mentioned on May 25 at ICC in Abuja. This money will be used to support our vision to save 1 million Nigerian mother over the next 5 years to reduce mortality rate for both mother and child.

“We have zoned the Nigerian landscape along the geopolitical zones. For the purpose of this project, each zone is now a life zone. We have 6 life zones. Each zone will have what we call hospital on wheels, that’s mobile solution. A detachment of permanent and ad-hoc staff will be put in place for each zone. The calendar will run from January to December. We are going to put mobile consulting room, laboratories, x-ray, ultrasound, theatre on the road. As we access any community, we will camp there for one week to educate the people, consulting and treating and while this happen, we will also educate the midwives and expose them to the use of basic devices.

“I call on my country men and women that this project is for Nigerians. This is for all of us. We have 200000 million Nigerians. Imagine, hypothetically that every Nigerian contributes 1000 to this project. That’s 2 trillion Nigeria. That’s a lot of money”, Odo explained.

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