Those to be elected into offices in the forthcoming 2019 general election must make healthcare delivery a priority, Nigeria’s medical experts have said.
The charge was the focal point of a town hall meeting on politics and healthcare delivery organised Tuesday by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to kick start its 58th Annual Delegates Meeting and Scientific Conference.
The event, which was chaired by a former Minister for Information, Jerry Gana, also had a host of dignitaries in attendance including legislators, representatives from different political parties, the electoral body, civil and non-governmental organizations among others.
In his opening remark, the president of the NMA, Mike Ogirima, highlighted many critical challenges bedevilling the country’s health sector. He said the health and socio-demographic indices of Nigeria are a source of shame and ridicule to every patriotic citizen of Nigeria.
“Nigeria constitutes only 2 per cent of the world population but is contributes 14 per cent of maternal mortality for example. Up to 64 per cent of our pregnant women still deliver without the assistance of skilled birth attendants,” Mr Orgirima, a medical doctor, said.
He noted that same narrative applies to many others – infant and child mortality, HIV/AIDS & TB, the non-communicable diseases, accidents and injuries, including the menace of insurgency as some parts of the nation have been converted to a theatre of war with attendant loss of lives.
On the social developmental space, he said worsening poverty and ignorance have contributed to the unacceptable high population of out of school children and poor rates of girl child education.
“In Nigeria, About 70 million people lack access to safe drinking water, over 110 million lacked access to improved sanitation in 2013, and open defecation rates at 28.5 per cent, pose grave public health risks across the land.”
“Not doing well is neither in our genes nor is it a curse from the gods,” the NMA leader queried rhetorically.
“2019 is now around the corner. They have started canvassing for our support and vote. We must engage the politicians differently this time. We must bring issues to the table.
“We must resolve to educate and enlighten Nigerians as 2019 beckons, not to be carried away by sentiments, ethnicity, religion or sugar coated soap vituperations, but to ask what plans the politicians have for them to improve healthcare delivery and other sectors and how they intend to achieve them.”
Also speaking, Toyin Saraki, the wife of the Senate President, decried the low coverage of the National Health Insurance Scheme.
She said same amount of money allotted to defence should also be allotted to health.
“For every dollar spent on health, four is spent on defence. Same amount should be allotted to both sectors as they are critical,” she noted.
Using a projection slide, Oyewale Tomori, the Chairman, National Bio-vaccines, explained the pattern of trend in the health sector from the 1880’s till date.
Mr Tomori, a professor, described as worrisome that Nigeria is still battling the same diseases that plagued the country years ago.
For Mike Egboh, to get health right, charity should begin at home.
Mr. Egboh decried the protracted rivalry between medical doctors and other health workers.
He said the both professional bodies should unite and speak with one voice for a better deal for the health sector.
Tony Enihari said medical doctors always appear to shy away from politics.
“Doctors don’t care when it comes to politics. The NMA should get more involved in politics so as to have enough influence in driving a better deal for the health sector.
“Do not rely on political parties because they are all the same. Take this campaign on prioritisation of health as a major influencer in the forthcoming election to the grass roots, units, states and the national level so the candidates and prospective electorates will put health on their topmost list.”
Various political parties were also allowed to explain how they will tackle the challenges facing the health sector if they ‘gain power’.
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