The society of black people is one that defies logic, so much disorder and general dissonance. For some of us that can pass for modern children, we thought our society has been this way since creation but in the universities our lecturers, who had nationalistic fervor told us in the beginning it was not so, that the history of the black race is a rich one, full of sound organization and solid civilization. Many of the accounts even claim we taught the world how to live. It may have been so, yet it leaves the question hanging and that big question is, did the administrative prowess of the Black people die with this era of preeminence? If it did not, how come our situation is what it is today: disorder, almost structure-less, underdeveloped with life severely brutish and nasty?
Today’s focus is on the healthcare system and in particular, citizen’s access to it. The health situation is horrible and unfortunately the leadership, true to character, is oblivious of the prevailing circumstances under them and this singular factor more than any other is behind what is a tragedy, making life miserable for great number of the people. The health condition of the citizens and the general state of the country’s healthcare system are among the things some of us see and have no choice but wonder if the black race ever had a civilization worth that acknowledgment. Health is wealth, it is not only restricted to individuals, it is applicable to the life of a country. A country of healthy citizens would have an active and productive workforce. We all know what this means in terms of development and particularly wealth creation. It could be that part of the reason we are backward could be traceable to unhealthy citizenry. It is possible we would have found this out if ours were to be a society that runs on reason and statistics. The number of human resources we lose alone on road accidents could frighten us.
I have a friend in the United States of America, who is a Nigerian. He read English Language here for his first degree and in the US went into the medical field. He is doing well. Two years ago he came home and I posed a question to him: “Brother, when are you returning to settle here in the country?” His response was shocking: “Me, to come where?” I said, ‘Nigeria.’ He retorted: “I can’t live here.” His main reason was the health system. He lectured me that one was more likely to die from poor response and inadequate care than from such misfortunes as accidents and diseases. In America, he told me, a victim with health challenges would be evacuated in less than 10 minutes and into a facility that is relevant to his affliction. The security agents, he continued, and even the citizens know what to do to offer first aid. He said renowned writer Chinua Achebe had a third stage accident and was crippled because it was Nigeria and caused essentially by late evacuation.
I saw plenty of sense in what my friend told me. Our health system was at a time great but today it is in shambles. There is no pattern to what we call system and that is the truth. Ambulance services are in comatose; you can hardly find them even in hospital premises. The ones you see are either decorations, non-functional or kept for special purposes unknown to even the staff on duty. In the event of fatalities we all become spectators rather than helpers, many take pictures and post on the social media while victims are trapped and in agony. Last week persons from my area who travelled to Imo State on their way back were involved in what turned out to be a fatal accident. Information available indicated that it took time to evacuate the injured, and when it was done it was to a place that was not appropriate. The place that was to give succour was very ill-equipped for the degree of task it was saddled with: no scanner machine, no X-ray, no blood bank, yet it stood in the name of a hospital.
One can imagine the amount of time wasted. In an accident in which about 20 citizens were involved, it perhaps may not surprise fellow citizens to note that it was not any state health official that suggested a change of hospital for the obviously traumatized citizens. Rather, it was members of their families who, as would be expected, were medically ignorant. Those who have had the misfortune of being in a hospital environment in very recent times would tell you what their experiences are. They certainly have great stories to tell about professionalism in particular, state of preparedness, attitude on job and demands for cash.
Today as things stand in our country there is ideological vagueness. The National Assembly just reestablished this fact last week when it queried the Minister of Power over huge funds to be given to electricity companies, which formerly belonged to the government but have were privatized. The same confusion is afflicting the health sector. The new philosophy in government is that government has no business being in business. For that reason, the leadership has either allowed public health institutions to decay and die or be commercialized, with the result that the cost of healthcare is prized far above the reach of the majority citizens. Nigerians now fear to approach hospitals these days to treat common ailments like malaria because you may have to cough out between N7000 and N10,000. The cost surgery and other allied cases is totally beyond what an average citizen can afford. Many turn beggars before they can receive attention; more troubling is that many are kept hostage as a result of inability to complete payments or meet incidental charges.
Our leaders must hear this and it is important: Nigerians are suffering because of the near death of the public health sector and attendant high cost of procuring healthcare from private concerns. Children now abandon parents to wriggle in pains and die. Brothers stay away from brothers. The recipe lies in reexamining our health policy. Government must begin to play full and qualitative role in critical sectors. We should not make any mistake about this because health is one of such sectors. Our country can definitely offer her citizens quality free health services. This mentality of leaving everything in the hands of private initiative will definitely leave everyone bruised and battered.