Medical Doctors put in very serious hours at work. And in their work, they do not have the leisure of making “small mistakes” like in other fields because when they do, lives are lost or persons and families are permanently damaged and disfigured.
This is the case all over the world. But in Nigeria, the situation is made worse by structural, institutional and cultural inadequacies.
Thus, given the seriousness of their work, doctors ought to be adequately compensated.
Moreover, the number of years they put into their training is almost unprecedented in any other field.
They are worth every penny they are paid. And more! Personally, I believe that doctors in Nigeria are grossly underpaid and tremendously overworked.
On the average, there is about one doctor for every 2,500 persons in Nigeria. This is outrageously inadequate and dangerous for the healthcare of Nigerians.
This is part of the reasons why they shuttle from their government jobs to their Private Practice gigs just so that they would live up to the status of “being doctors”.
The truth is that if doctors and other healthcare professionals are to be paid what they ought to be paid, Nigerians would not afford the cost of their healthcare given the current economic indices of the country.
This is figuratively and financially. Currently, the rich go on medical tours to Europe, United States, and even to India, to attend to their health while the majority of Nigerians play Russian Roulette gamble with their lives in the country.
All the above are part of the structural and institutional deficiencies in our healthcare system. Assuming that we could call what we have a system because “system” would connote predictability in navigation of the process.
In simple language, it means that where there is a “healthcare system” one could predict their experience when they seek healthcare. Because, if they do a, b and c, they are sure to get 1, 2 and 3 results.
In Nigeria, that is not the case. Nigerians are left to get what they get each time they seek healthcare. And what they get is different every time even if one applies the same steps as the previous time. This does not make for trust and belief in a system. Therefore, there is no system!
A point that must be made here, is that predictability of experience is different from expected health outcomes when medical procedures are applied.
Such would be up to the diagnostics, therapeutics and the skills of the attending healthcare professionals; in addition to the overall health status of the patient, stage of the illness and other multifactorial inputs and considerations.
Just so we are clear, the point I am making here is predictability of experience in accessing healthcare in Nigeria, which I say is nothing but horrendous.
But, it does not have to be so. The healthcare system in Nigeria could be fixed in just 10 years! The first 3 to 5 years would be used to put in place the necessary structural processes.
For example, training of doctors. It is criminal that a young person would spend 6-7 years of hard work in the university studying medicine only to spend another equivalent number of years, post graduation, seeking a Residency Position. So, nepotism and corruption becomes the order of the day.
So many become disillusioned that they change field, seek outside opportunities or waste their youth trying to specialize in a field of medicine.
This is wrong! And it can be fixed in just 2-3 years!
The other is healthcare payment through Health Insurance. There is the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) which is nothing but a bastard ghost of what it is supposed to be.
Several State Governors have latched onto this in the name of state insurance schemes in what can only be described as lots of noise and movements with nothing to show for the money expended, or claimed to have been expended.
Since State Governors still insist on handling Local Government Council monies, they ought to take up Primary Healthcare systems and do it well. The Nigerian Constitution allocates Primary Healthcare to the Local Government Councils.
How can the poor, young people, including young couples, save money for their future if they have to be paying for healthcare out of their pockets every time they have healthcare need? It is not sustainable.
The institutional processes that hinder Nigeria’s healthcare would take a little longer than 5 years to wean the health professionals of their bad habits, but it is doable. All this is needed is the will.
From there, progress would be made towards the issue of therapeutic outcomes. As things are now with inadequate diagnostic equipments along with fake drugs and quack practitioners, therapeutic outcomes are by prayers. Such is not the way of science.
With these very simple and short steps, the brain drain Nigeria experiences in the medical profession would be reversed and Nigeria would become a medical tourist destination with the attendant direct and indirect job creation for our unemployed youths.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria! Chibuzor O. Obiakor