News Analysis

Increasing Investment in Health Systems to Combat Covid-19

As countries across the globe continue to grapple with the ravaging impact of the novel Coronavirus or Covid-19, a big issue which has come to the fore is the need to increase investment in healthcare systems.

The nation has to reorder her priority by putting health in the first place.

This will not only be in the best interest of Nigeria, it will also put an end to medical tourism which prior to now gulped millions of naira that should be in the country’s coffers.

Furthermore, it will defeat the projection by some evil-minded persons that Nigeria would be worse hit by the Covid-19 pandemic than Italy, USA and China due to inadequate health infrastructure.

Health Systems across the world has become over-stretched and overwhelmed.

In fact, some of the largest hospitals in Europe have been calling for donations from the public.

Not too long ago, the United States Mission in Nigeria warned its citizens planning to be evacuated back home that hospitals were already overwhelmed due to Covid-19.

Even countries with the most robust health facilities were all finding it difficult.

A functional healthcare system is no doubt important to deliver qualitative health service at this trying time.

Over the years, successive administrations have embarked on various programs to improve the health sector but these schemes have not been effective in achieving their aims and objectives due to corruption, poor welfare packages, poor implementation, unstable economy, inhumane attitude of some health workers and inadequate funding.

This had resulted to lack of access especially by those at the lowest rung of the ladder.

Also, the National Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS, though laudable has not been extended to all Nigerians.

Many of the vulnerable population are left at the mercy of private hospitals that charge exorbitantly or quacks who endanger their lives.

Sadly, the Primary Healthcare Centers, PHCs, which are expected to service those at the grassroots have become weakened due to lack of basic amenities, drugs and consumables.

At this juncture, it is important to note that revitalization of the PHCs across the country is necessary if the war against Covid-19 will be won.

Although, a World Health Organization, WHO, report showed that Nigeria has one of the largest stocks of human resources for Health in Africa, these number is too low compared with the population coupled with the fact that they are being lured to countries with better welfare packages and emoluments on a daily basis.

More so, inadequate personal protective equipment, PPE for health workers, ventilators and test kits for Covid-19 are beginning to generate concerns among Nigerians.

No wonder, a former Minister of Finance, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala who is the chair of GAVI, The Vaccine Alliance, said the outcry in virtually every country about lack of equipment and supplies to test and protect against Covid-19 would lead countries to re-examine their supply chain for critical Health and livelihood-related products.

To this end, Nigeria should look inwards for the provision of essential products locally as well as strengthening pharmaceutical companies and other manufacturers.

Greater investment is also needful in research for vaccines, equipment and other medical supplies.

Commendably, the presidency said the latest tranche of Abacha loot repatriated would be allocated to infrastructural development, the Health sector should be considered in this regard.

Furthermore, the agreement reached by heads of government in 2001 that a minimum of fifteen percent of the budget be ploughed into the Health sector should be revisited.

To prevent brain drain, upgrade of facilities and improved working condition for health workers would not be out of place.

A stitch in time saves nine, time is now, therefore, to consider massive investment in Health Systems to stem the spread of coronavirus and to build a lasting health infrastructure for the coming generation.

Anthonia Akanji

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