Buhari’s UK medical trip is once again showing the failure of Nigeria’s healthcare

Nigerian doctors

Just before the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on an indefinite strike on April 1, 2021, President Buhari departed Abuja for a medical checkup in the UK. The timing couldn’t be worse, given that that NARD had given the federal government an ultimatum to improve the wages and allowances of doctors to avert the strike.

As a consequence, medical services have been paralysed in public hospitals across the country, leaving hundreds of patients unattended. On social media, Nigerians have criticised Buhari’s decision to seek healthcare outside the country’s shores, an indictment on his administration’s running of the healthcare system, which has slipped into further dysfunction. Nigerians have also been coming forward with their horror stories arising from the strike action by resident doctors.

Doctors going on strike to demand unpaid wages or better working conditions is nothing new. Nor is Buhari jetting abroad for medical care, or members of the ruling political class for that matter. Nigeria’s healthcare system is still facing the same challenges before Buhari took over the reins as president. Under his administration, things have barely improved.

From poor facilities, poor staffing, lack of equipment to low disease surveillance rate in primary healthcare centres. Incessant strike by doctors and healthcare workers have crippled health delivery across secondary and tertiary health institutions. This involves doctors from the Nigerian Medical Association, who have had to press home their demands: better wages and good working conditions.

There’s also the mass migration of doctors and other health professionals to other countries, leading to a shortage of doctors or under-staffing of health workers. Nigeria is still off the mark according to recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) on the required number of medical personnel to cater to its exploding population.

The ratio of doctor to patient ratio is 1: 2753 which translates to 36.6 medical doctors per 100,000 persons. WHO recommends 1:600 doctor-patient ratio. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic last year, there were speculations that perhaps that healthcare in Nigeria would get better since government officials are now forced to rely on the system due to travel bans and lockdowns.

Apparently, this hasn’t turned out to be the case. Buhari is the current avatar of a ruling political class whose privilege provides them with a safety net.

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