Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, codenamed COVID-19, in China December last year and its subsequent spread to Nigeria and other parts of the world, governments, enterprises and individuals have come to terms with the fact that health is foremost in the life of any nation. One lesson for Nigerians by the time the scourge is over is that the country may be the ultimate beneficiary from the pandemic if the leaders match words with actions and give the health sector the serious attention it deserves. For the first time, the governments accepted the truth that the health sector at primary, secondary and tertiary levels is not what it should be.
COVID-19 also brought out the hospitable nature of the citizens, which they have demonstrated through the donation of billions of Naira, equipment, buildings and other facilities to enable government at all levels to combat the pandemic. They have also demonstrated their patriotism and nationalism by obeying the guidelines issued by the government at great personal cost, a gesture that can only be rewarded through good governance by those in authorities.
It is against this backdrop that this newspaper commends the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 headed by secretary to the government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, for their effort in mobilizing Nigerians against the pandemic. In particular, we applaud Mustapha’s forthrightness in declaring that the health sector deserves to be improved upon.
The SGF told the leadership of the National Assembly last Thursday that the health sector was deplorable and unable of meeting any national health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic the country is currently grappling with. “I can tell you for sure, I never knew that our entire healthcare infrastructure was in the state in which it is until I was appointed to do this work”, Mustapha said. It is imperative, in our opinion, that government at all levels heed his wise counsel that the authorities concerned ought to take the necessary steps to reposition the health sector.
All global health indices such as the ratio of patients to doctors, maternal/infant mortality, availability and affordability of drugs, and other socioeconomic factors like per capita income and lifespan of the people are on the low side in Nigeria. Whatever was left in the health sector was destroyed by the brain drain wave, incessant strikes by health workers, poor budgetary allocation and disbursement to the extent that neither the federal government nor the states have met the World Health Organisation (WHO) benchmark for funding the sector. Now that the Corona virus has hit the country resulting to the current frenzied response to containing it, the government must rise to the challenge and say ‘never again’ will they neglect the sector to avoid a worse situation in the future.
Without doubt, we feel the pains of the people and gauge the pulse of the country; we call for the total overhaul of the entire healthcare delivery system. The local governments must pay attention to primary healthcare services, likewise the states, which have virtually abandoned the secondary tier. Their neglect of the general hospitals must not be allowed to continue.
In the same vein, the federal government must rejig the tertiary healthcare system by equipping the current teaching and specialist hospitals with modern facilities and ensure adequate remuneration for the workforce. The existing hospitals must also be expanded and when inevitable, new ones should be built. Our political leaders must have faith in our health professionals since none of them has so far gone abroad for medical attention since the COVID-19 outbreak. This is where the huge funds contributed by the private sector to combat COVID-19 come in. The money should be judiciously and transparently used both for fighting the virus and repositioning the sector. We must not be beaten again by any disease outbreak now that it has dawned on all that there is no place to hide anywhere in the entire universe