As in most other indices of human development, Nigeria was poorly ranked in the recently released first global healthcare access report. The country was placed in the 140th position, with 51 points, on the report’s Healthcare Access and Quality Index. The ranking is based on a quantification of personal access to healthcare and the quality of healthcare available in 195 countries, from 1990-2015.
In the comprehensive study published in the May 18 edition of the medical journal, The Lancet, Nigeria lagged far behind many other African nations. The report surveyed and assessed 195 nations on healthcare quality and access, ranking them from zero to 100. The researchers created a Healthcare Access and Quality Index based on the numbers of deaths from 32 causes that could be avoided by “timely and effective medical care.” The diseases for which death rates were tracked include tuberculosis and other respiratory infections, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, measles, several forms of treatable cancer, heart disease, maternal and neonatal disorders.
Apart from Afghanistan, Haiti and Yemen, the 30 countries at the bottom of the ranking were all in sub-Saharan Africa. The Central African Republic had the worst standards of all. Tunisia, at 89th position, is the highest ranked African nation. It is followed by Libya at 90 and Egypt at 107, Namibia 117, South Africa 118, Gabon 120, Botswana 121, Swaziland 125, Algeria 129, Cape Verde 131 and Morocco 132. Countries that top the list are Andorra, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. The United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) were ranked 30th and 35th respectively.
We lament the low ranking of Nigeria in the new global healthcare report and urge the nation’s health authorities to do something urgently to redress our parlous healthcare situation. We have what it takes to build quality hospitals and health centres that can adequately cater for the people.
But, due to brain drain and the lack of good hospitals, our healthcare system has depreciated over the years. Government must rise up to the challenge now by building state-of-the-art hospitals to meet the people’s needs and reduce the medical tourism of our political elite. We must build the type of hospitals that our leaders patronise in Europe, America and Asia. Our poor ranking on this index, though not surprising, is very shameful. Lack of universal health coverage, ill-equipped hospitals, high infant and maternal deaths, lack of diagnostic equipment and poor access to dialysis machines and other treatment equipment contribute to our poor ranking.
To improve the situation, government must pay serious attention to our primary healthcare needs. Getting it right at this level will make our secondary and tertiary health care systems more effective. Government should increase annual budgets for health.The remuneration of doctors and other health workers must be greatly enhanced to curb the migration of these professionals to Europe and America.
Available data show that about 15,000 Nigerian medical doctors have moved to Europe and America to ply their trade. With a population of over 150 million people, Nigeria only has between 40,000 and 60,000 doctors working in the country.
Annually, between 500 and 700 doctors leave the country for greener pastures abroad. In 2015, about 715 doctors left the country, while 500 took the examination for possible recruitment/placement abroad, preferably in the United Kingdom (UK), Canada and the United States (US).
The doctor/patient ratio in the country is put at 1:4250 as against the recommendation of 1:600 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Our doctor/patient ratio is one of the highest in the world. The Caribbean country, Cuba, has one of the best doctor/patient ratios in the world at 1:170. It is followed by the US at 1:390 and Australia at 1:400.
We cannot develop our healthcare sector if this scenario continues. Government must set our health priorities and avoid a poor ranking next time. We have the resources and manpower to make our healthcare system one of the best in the world. Unfortunately, we lack the political will to do so. Government should frontally address the ills of our health care system. The era of paying lip service to healthcare should be done away with.