Nigeria: Medical Tourism, Dilapidated PHCs, Incessant Staff’ Strike, Others Present Buhari Failed in Well being Sector


Public analysts persistently criticised the President’s medical journeys overseas, blaming him for “championing the mistrust in Nigeria’s well being sector,” particularly by the members of the elite class.

No Nigerian chief spent extra time in hospital overseas than President Muhammadu Buhari’s roughly 232 days. It took him solely two years in workplace to beat the record set by certainly one of his predecessors and Katsina kinsman, the late Umar Yar’Adua, who spent 109 days on medical journeys overseas in his 32-month keep in workplace.

Public analysts have criticised the outgoing president’s medical tourism, blaming him for “championing the mistrust in Nigeria’s well being sector”, particularly by the elite class.

“The president because the image of the nation has persistently breached the oath of allegiance and the individuals’s belief in him by his mistrust within the well being services at residence. And that’s very unfair for a frontrunner who was elected by the individuals to offer the perfect care in well being and different sectors of nationwide growth,” stated Lekan Oladapo, Challenge Director for Lygel Youth and Management Initiative, a non-governmental organisation.

He stated the president’s conduct inspired medical tourism overseas, which in keeping with an earlier report by PREMIUM TIMES, prices Nigeria an estimated N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly.

However this was not what Mr Buhari and his political get together promised Nigerians.

Marketing campaign manifesto

Forward of the 2015 normal election, Mr Buhari, candidate of the then opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), introduced his get together’s manifesto themed: “Constructing a New Nigeria.”

A serious promise within the manifesto – described on the time as probably the most bold and elaborate within the nation’s political historical past – was the availability of sturdy healthcare companies by an APC administration.

The specifics of the promise for the well being sector embrace nationwide domestication of Baby Rights Act, free ante-natal and maternal look after pregnant ladies; free healthcare for infants and kids as much as 12 years previous and the aged, and free remedy of individuals with infectious illnesses; elevating the gross nationwide well being expenditure per individual every year from lower than N10,000 to about N50,000, and elevating federal government-owned hospitals to world class customary inside 5 years via investments in infrastructure, diagnostic tools and steady skilled growth.

Mr Buhari additionally promised to improve healthcare within the nation by prioritising Major Well being Care, guaranteeing elevated budgetary allocation, and enhancing welfare for well being staff, amongst others.

Talking particularly on the problem posed by medical tourism, the president, in April 2016, months after his first medical journey to London, stated the federal government’s hard-earned money wouldn’t be spent on treating officers abroad, particularly when Nigeria has the experience.

“Whereas this administration won’t deny anybody of his or her elementary human rights, we will definitely not encourage expending Nigerian hard-earned sources on any authorities official looking for medical care overseas, when such might be dealt with in Nigeria,” former Well being Minister, Isaac Adewole, stated at an occasion the place he represented the president.

Nevertheless, President Buhari is forsaking a legacy opposite to these guarantees. Past medical tourism, he can be remembered for poor efficiency in industrial relations within the sector and first healthcare growth, and scary maternal and toddler mortality statistics.

On well being infrastructure

Regardless of promises by Mr Buhari’s administration to revitalise PHCs and enhance the standard of government-owned hospitals, many well being services throughout the nation nonetheless lack primary tools and infrastructure required to offer high quality well being care.

Numerous stories have revealed the dilapidated state of PHCs throughout the nation, particularly in rural communities.

Going by the blueprint of the Nationwide Major Well being Care Improvement Company (NPHCDA), a PHC ought to have a number of docs, a pharmacist, a workers nurse and different paramedical assist workers to offer outreach companies.

It must also have a well-equipped open ward, labour room, kids and feminine wards, physician’s workplace and workers quarters, an ambulance for referrals and medicines and tools for immunisation, preventive and primary healing care. The centre can also be to offer monitoring and analysis, in addition to maternal and little one well being companies.

In the meantime, this isn’t the scenario in PHCs throughout the nation. Nearly all of these PHCs are short-staffed, poorly geared up, lack electrical energy and water, and can’t successfully cater for the individuals.

Many pregnant ladies nonetheless search the companies of conventional delivery attendants for supply. Many kids within the rural areas additionally miss out on routine immunisation which is supposed to be one of many duties of a purposeful PHC.

In January 2017, President Buhari flagged off a scheme to revitalise 10,000 PHCs throughout the nation to reinforce the entry of Nigerians to qualitative and inexpensive well being companies. Nevertheless, six years after the flag-off many PHCs are nonetheless not purposeful and people which can be purposeful are providing well being companies beneath customary.

Numerous investigations carried out by PREMIUM TIMES between 2018 and 2022 reveal that almost all of those PHCs are nonetheless in a poor state.

The director, PHC system growth, NPHCDA, Ngozi Nwosu, additionally confirmed this throughout a well being dialogue organised by this newspaper in November, 2022. Ms Nwosu stated some PHCs services throughout the nation are poorly geared up, with solely 1 / 4 of about 30,000 services having greater than 25 per cent of the minimal tools package deal.

Ms Nwosu stated the restricted protection of vital PHC interventions is additional aggravated by poor high quality care, with poor efficiency of well being staff additionally contributing to this.

The Government Director of the company, Faisal Shuaib, at a latest occasion additionally reiterated the poor state of PHCs particularly in rural areas.

Mr Shuaib stated there may be an unequal distribution of accessible Expert Beginning Attendants (SBAs) among the many PHC services, noting that solely 463 (1.8 per cent) out of 25,380 PHCs within the nation possess the required variety of SBAs.

The story is just not completely different at federal government-owned secondary and tertiary hospitals within the nation. These well being services lack primary medical tools, akin to diagnostic tools, affected person screens, and surgical devices, making it troublesome for well being staff to offer high quality well being care to sufferers.

As an illustration, over 300 radiotherapy machines are wanted to cater for most cancers sufferers in Nigeria however the nation has solely 13 in keeping with the Nigerian Cancer Society (NCS).

Most cancers sufferers journey throughout states and likewise be part of a ready record to entry radiotherapy machines.

Industrial crises

Whereas well being staff’ strikes usually are not a brand new phenomenon in Nigeria, the Buhari administration witnessed extra of those than the earlier administration. Inside the final eight years, these suppliers of important companies downtooled for 163 days, and nonetheless counting, particularly because the Joint Well being Sector Unions (JOHESU) on Thursday directed its members to start one other spherical of indefinite strike.

Different unions largely affected by the commercial crises are the Nationwide Affiliation of Resident Medical doctors (NARD) and the Nigerian Medical Affiliation (NMA).The well being staff, at completely different occasions, went on strike to demand improved welfare, elevated hazard allowance, fee of salaries arrears, amongst others.

As an illustration, in June 2016, members of NARD launched into a nationwide strike to protest unpaid salaries, poor working circumstances, and insufficient funding of the well being sector. The strike which lasted for seven days was finally known as off following negotiations between the federal government and the affiliation.

In September 2017, NARD and NMA collectively declared a nationwide strike which lasted for 10 days.

The longest of all of the strikes was by NARD which was declared on 2 August 2021. It lasted for 63 days. The affiliation declared the strike over authorities’s failure to pay home officers’ salaries and the non-recruitment of home officers. The union once more simply returned from a five-day warning strike because of the authorities’s failure to fulfill their calls for over time.

Throughout an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the President of NARD, Emeka Harmless, stated from 2015 until date, the well being staff have launched into a number of industrial actions. “I’ll let the general public do the maths on the variety of occasions well being staff have launched into strikes throughout President Buhari’s administration.”

Mind Drain

The exodus of healthcare professionals, particularly docs, pharmacists, and nurses to developed nations has been a burning difficulty underneath Mr Buhari’s administration.

Though the president promised to enhance the welfare of well being staff whereas campaigning forward of the 2015 election, the well being sector is alleged to have skilled the worst mind drain underneath his administration.

With a doctor-patient ratio over 5 occasions worse than the WHO advice, Nigeria has continued to lose a whole lot of docs yearly to mind drain, numerous them to the UK.

Numerous statistics exhibits that over 5,000 Nigerian medical docs have migrated to the UK within the final eight years.

Data documented by the event Analysis and Challenge Centre (dRPC), exhibits that in 2015, 233 Nigerian docs moved to the UK; in 2016 the quantity elevated to 279; in 2017 the determine was 475, in 2018, the determine rose to 852, in 2019 it jumped to 1,347; in 2020, the determine was 833 and in 2021, it was put at 932.

The continued emigration of well being practitioners has led to a scarcity of expert well being staff within the nation, which has negatively affected the standard of healthcare companies supplied to the residents.

Mr Harmless, the NARD President, stated though the federal government could have carried out its finest, it failed in addressing quite a few challenges dealing with the well being sector.

“We nonetheless have insufficient infrastructure, insufficient manpower,” he stated, including that “Poor remuneration for well being staff, amongst different points, have been recognized as causes of the mind drain which is a mirrored image of failure of the federal government.”

He stated so long as this isn’t addressed, the mind drain will proceed and it’ll get to a time the place the well being system will collapse.

Well being financing

Though the well being sector bought its highest funds ever underneath the Buhari administration, it nonetheless failed to fulfill the 15 per cent dedication made by heads of African nations in 2001.

African Heads of States and Governments underneath the African Union (AU) in April 2001 made the dedication to dedicate no less than 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the well being sector in what’s now generally known as the ‘Abuja Declaration.’

Whereas nations like Rwanda and South Africa have met the dedication, Nigeria has not discovered a means to take action. A overview of the budgetary allocation to the well being sector within the final 21 years revealed that Nigeria has by no means met the 15 per cent goal.

Nevertheless, for the primary time within the historical past of well being funding in Nigeria, over a trillion naira was allotted to the sector within the 2023 funds.

An evaluation of the funds exhibits that N1.17 trillion (5.75 per cent) was allotted to the well being sector out of the full N20.5 trillion funds for the 2023 fiscal yr.

Talking with PREMIUM TIMES, the director of programmes on the PACFaH@scale, Stanley Ukpai, stated the Buhari administration improved on well being financing however nonetheless failed to fulfill the 15 per cent dedication agreed upon by African leaders.

Mr Ukpai stated though there is a rise within the share allotted yearly, particularly within the 2023 funds, the quantity remains to be too low to finance the well being sector. He stated with out ample financing, the healthcare wants of the nation can’t be addressed.

Scary statistics

For a number of years, Nigeria’s well being system has been rated as one of many worst globally. In 2017, the World Health Organisation’s analysis of well being programs ranked Nigeria 187 out of 191, higher solely than the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Myanmar.

The identical survey carried out in 2021 ranked Nigeria’s healthcare system because the fourth worst on the earth.

The 2013 Nationwide Demographic and Well being Survey (NDHS) exhibits that toddler and under-five mortality charges had been 69 and 128 deaths per 1,000 reside births, respectively. However, in 2018, the toddler mortality fee lowered to 67 deaths per 1,000 reside births, whereas under-five mortality rose to 132 deaths per 1,000 reside births.

The maternal mortality ratio was 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 reside births in 2013. Within the NDHS 2018 report, it was estimated at 512 maternal deaths per 100,000 reside births.