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Open letter to Mr President: A call to sanitize the health sector


Your Excellency sir, I congratulate you on your victory in the last general election and your achievements so-far since assumption of office. I hope you will reinforce and re-affirm your determined mind-set to institute change in Nigeria. 

The CHANGE we voted for is apparent, and people already have confidence in your administration – an effective yardstick to assess your office later. Your speech during the last Independence Day celebration was on point, just like the representation and reputation you gave the nation at the last UN meeting; the kind we have not had in recent time. This is obviously a right step in the right direction. 

Sir, I wish to bring to your notice, or rather remind you- because I am sure you are not unaware of the decadence in our health sector.  

The current state of the sector is so appalling that it needs a complete overhaul. This ranges from the admission processes into various medical schools and other allied institutions to the topmost echelon in the professional pyramid. 

My heart bleeds with despair as I write this piece, because the sector is crumbling, and worse still, no acknowledgeable paradigm shift is imminent. It is really sardonic that the health sector, the most paramount of all sector, is really enmeshed in such decadence. 

With staunch conviction, I believe you are the messiah that can salvage the situation and breathe normalcy into the system. 

Without playing to the gallery, I would rightly say, insanity starts right from the recruitment process into the training institutions, which constitute its structural set up. 

The system is so structured in a way that undue influence and favouritism remain the yardsticks for enlisting candidates, which is anathema to the old system of certification and merit-based assessment. This is out rightly wrong from all indications. 

Supposedly, the sector ought to be a sacred one that would hold the sanctity of life in high esteem. No wonder such recruits perpetuate series of unprofessional conducts at the slightest chance, damning the consequences. This could manifest in form of continual industrial actions, or at worst, flagrance disregards for professionalism, as we have experienced over the years. 

We cannot continue to pay blind service to the endless battle for supremacy that hitherto exists between Nigerian Medical Association and some other allied professional associations. Insanity takes a great toll as insincerity, dishonesty, and corruption remain the order of the day. 

This is similar to what is obtainable in almost all other sectors in the country. 

It is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the marrows of Nigerian, for which only a radical approach may bring redemption. We have to extend our tentacles to the health delivery system so as to arrest the spate at which poor Nigerians lose their lives. In extension, the issues of “relativity” and “skipping” must be critically reviewed and addressed in due course.  

As much as I trust your meticulous approach to solving social issues, permit me to proffer some solutions to the menace, looking from within. I believe making Medicine a second degree course of study or having a standard entry point will help sieve a lot of shafts and this will go a long way in sanitizing the sector.

In the same vein, all administrators are to be made accountable and individually responsible for their offices, and prevent relapse by a scheming up a check and balance system. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) practice in the country needs a structural reassessment as it only sub serves a few privileged minorities, instead of the large financially wrecked ones. 

Similarly, the hierarchical structure of our tertiary institutions is another germane point of focus that requires urgent rescue. Privatizing the sector, though can be tempting, is one that will put the masses at a disadvantage – they will have to pay through their nostrils. 

If the aforementioned options can be implemented, privatization won’t be necessary and the sector would have been cured of its epilepsy. 

Your Excellency sir, the health sector is nearly dead, but above all, it can be resuscitated, if prompt decisions are taken and rigorous attempts are made to actively revive it. 

Nothing could be more painful than seeing people dying of treatable ailments because of inaccessibility to health services, owing to ceaseless industrial actions among health workers. A positive approach and action from your office will save millions of innocent life, and will be a legacy worth sustaining and emulating by upcoming generation. 

Thank you as you steward the ship of the country in the right direction after a very long wait. 

May your days be long sir, and wish you sound health and strength. 

Abdulkareem Ahmed O, Medical doctor

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