The Nigeria government has been advised to come up with a comprehensive action plan with proper coordination, sincerity and adequate funding to tackle the spread of the coronavirus pandemic in the country before it gets out of hand.
The action plan must encourage local production of standardised medical needs, improved Public-Private Partnership and increased testing.
A United Kingdom-based Nigerian medical doctor and a member of the New Generation Leadership, NGL, Dr Ajileye Omoniyi, gave this advice while speaking on the theme, “the decay, the exodus and now the pandemic” on the forum of the NGL, aimed at discussing and creating solutions to Nigeria’s health challenges at this time.
The medical expert who observed that the decay in the Nigerian health care sector had been festering for decades, said it was a reflection of the larger society where poor planning, corruption, incompetence, nepotism and an inefficient system has clogged the wheels of progress.
Dr Omoniyi said, “no progressive nation would take its healthcare system for granted, stressing that all serious nations, need a healthy citizenry to ensure that productivity is maximized and the future generations are guaranteed a solid future”.
He, however, noted that Nigeria had not always been in such a precarious ledge in terms of decay in its health care delivery system, because before independence, the nation already had formidable hospitals like the University College Hospital, Ibadan in the late ’50s with several other colleges of medicine from the University of Lagos, Ahmadu Bello University, University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University), and the University of Benin which were already established by 1975, with progressive health Ministers like the late Prof Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, who strived to make qualitative healthcare available to every Nigerian.
Dr Omoniyi said it was disheartening to note that by the year 2020, “Nigeria is rated 187th out of 191 nations in terms of health care delivery worldwide and ranked in the bottom 5 in terms of worst infant mortality and maternal mortality”.
According to him, the World Health Organisation, WHO, the recommendation is for nations to spend at least 5% of its GDP on health care, but with of little priority in the Nigeria budget allocations, the decay has sunk to an all-time low, leading to crumbling infrastructure, outdated medical equipment and healthcare personnel exodus, with an estimated N358 billion spent on medical tourism by Nigerians last year.
These Dr Omoniyi said has led healthcare professionals to take matters in their own hands and seek socio-economic fulfilment elsewhere, creating a brain drain which is having its toll on the Nation which has not been able to match the Global benchmark which recommends a doctor to patient ratio of 1:1000.
He said, it was time for government at all tiers to address the decay in the health sector, with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic which has further exposed the inadequacies, saying “in less than one month, the number of confirmed positive cases has jumped from 20 to over 1000 thereby highlighting the large deficit in our health delivery system”.
“Our leaders need to wake up to the realisation that coronavirus isn’t going anywhere, we cannot be doing things the same way and expect a different result. While Private hospitals are shutting their doors due to lack of adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), diagnostic centres are also shutting their doors to even cater to non-covid-19 emergencies”.
“While I would give high praise to the Lagos state government for their proactive stance and efforts done so far in the state, more needs to be done, If and when patients with the more severe respiratory compromise start to come, it will only be a matter of time before our fragile healthcare system is totally overwhelmed”
Dr Omoniyi thereby called on the Nigerian government to ensure proper coordination among all tiers of government while liaising with the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC and the federal ministry of health to provide guidelines and a comprehensive action plan which would include Community heads, religious leaders, NGO’s and other stakeholders with adequate funding which must be made available in a quick and transparent manner with accountability and keys area targeted for maximal impact.
He enjoined the government to work on key areas like infrastructure (mobile and hospital testing), training, publicity, provision of standardized PPE and also social welfare with improved and increased Testing.
Dr Omoniyi also advised that local industries must be encouraged to produce standardized equipment and disposable PPE (facemask, scrubs, gloves, apron, goggles, etc), hand sanitizers and cleaning agents while Public and private partnership must be looked into saying “Private hospitals are normally the first port of call for most people in the country when they become unwell, so the involvement of private hospitals cannot be overemphasised”.