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Poor infrastructure blamed for low health indices

13 January 2013, 17:21

Ikeja - The President, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Dr Osahon Enabulele has attributed the low health indices in the country to lack of proper infrastructural development and proper governance.

He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the low health indices had been in existence since 1960 and efforts were being made to change them.

Enabulele added that the lack of political commitment to health care was also responsible for the extreme situations in the health sector.

He noted that less than 7 per cent was allotted to the health sector in the 2013 budget as against the minimum of 15 per cent agreed on by African heads of governments in 2001.

"It is beyond voting a budget for health. You can vote a budget for health and the next time you have a problem you are flying the next available plane out of the country, what have you done?

"You have driven despondency amongst your people in the available health care facilities, in the utilisation of the health resource persons within those environments and you have increasingly a degradation of those facilities, because nobody is using them anymore.

"You have a situation where eventually the statistics starts going down, because these people who can no longer have confidence in those facilities as a result of poor political commitment, will resort to quacks, with all the attendant implication of morbidity and mortality and of course reduction in other health indices.

"The countries that our politicians run to abroad are countries that have understood the nexus between health and development, the nexus between investment in health care facilities, health care infrastructure and the growth and development of their people and the growth and development of their economy.”

Enebulele said that the absence of a regulatory framework in the health sector also contributed to the low health indices, noting that people just operated as they liked in some instances.

He said, however, that if the National Health Bill was passed, it would regulate and ensure appropriate management of the health environment in Nigeria.

"There is a strong nexus between health and development, there is a strong nexus between healthy and socio-economic and political development.’’

The NMA president added that another challenge was the inability to maximise potentials saying that information communication technology had a major role to play in enhancing Nigeria’s health environment.

"This can be useful in the rural communities to improve access to health care systems through the use of electronic health and mobile health as it happens in other countries.”

Enebulele also said that the poor state of the secondary and primary health care facilities was also a major challenge in the heath sector.

"They are deploying less than 6 per cent of their potentials, attending to less than 10 per cent of the disease burden in Nigeria.

"And that has meant in addition to the dislocated referral system, a situation where teaching hospitals now are just attending to those primary care issues, malaria, typhoid, and all what not being the major preoccupation of most of the tertiary hospitals.

"We are unable to move to the next level of care, which operates in other developed economies.

"So the poor primary health care development, the poor secondary health care development, which interestingly the National Health Bill seeks to of course correct, through appropriate allocation of resources to the primary health care system is something that we must think about.

"And of course hope that with a strengthened referral system, such that you move from the primary to the secondary to the tertiary health care levels, Nigeria will have a more organised healthcare system.”

Enabulele said that the first National Health Summit which would be held in Asaba from Jan. 20 to Jan. 27 would seek to address the issues of low health indices, among other issues.

He added that these issues would be subsequently followed up to ensure that government and all stakeholders played their roles in ensuring an improved health care sector.

"We have a strategy and that is why we are bringing policymakers, legislators to the summit to also have a very firm appreciation of some of the issues, challenges and proposals, so that when it comes to their table either at executive level or at the legislative level, they do not become strangers to the proposals.’’

The NMA president said that in spite of the challenging times, Nigerian medical practitioners would ensure proper orientation within the health care environment to establish the fact that the responsibility of giving care was a sacred one.

He said that the eight-month old new executive body of the NMA had created more than 80 committees to address some of the challenges in the health sector.

"We are going to follow it up from one community to another. Be it the issue of clinical governance, leadership or management of health institutions.

"We have committees that that we have charged with these responsibilities.” 

- NAN

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