Health sector: What to watch for in 2013

THE health sector like every other sector had its ups and downs. At the beginning of the year Lagos became the focal point when doctors in the state demanded for pay rise. There was deadlock in the talks and doctors went on indefinite strike. Healthcare in the state grinded almost to a halt and the state government sacked about 800 doctors, claiming that the strike was illegal.

Their properties were also thrown out of residence and all hell was let loose. The crisis deepened and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) mobilised members across the country to embark on a nationwide sympathy strike. A lot of patients in public hospitals had to be relocated to private hospitals by family and loved ones while the government made use of student doctors as a last resort. Gradually the imbroglio was resolved and the doctors were reinstated once more.

Cholera, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV and AIDs affected lives at the states, local government areas and some homes. On the international scene an alarm was raised on a worrisome increase in tuberculosis all over the world and the fact that it was resisting the drugs that were meant to combat the disease.

Polio and some of the other childhood diseases also claimed some lives. Nigeria was unable to eradicate wild polio, which health experts say, place Nigeria alongside Pakistan at the very center of countries frustrating global eradication of the disease.

The United States of America was quoted recently to have demanded that from June 2013, Nigerians travelling to the United States must be vaccinated against wild polio. Sadly, global health experts believe that health-related millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), especially those concerning infant and maternal health have already been declared unattainable by 2015 in Nigeria. This is because of the near collapse state of public health care.


President Ebele Goodluck Jonathan also showed a keen interest in maternal health. The president made a pledge to commit $33.4 million over the next four years to procure medicines and commodities in order to prevent at least a million deaths of women and children by the year 2015.

For many, it is indeed a relief if the resources would be channeled positively for those targeted. The pledged was made while launching the ‘Save one Million Lives’ programme in the Presidential Villa. The activities were in line with the United Nations report which listed 13 commodities that could save some sixteen million lives. According to President Jonathan, the country has been able to address diseases that account for over 50 per cent of child mortality in the country.

Laboratory medicine is by no means at its summit. Progress, however, has been faster for laboratory services specialising in certain diseases, particularly those associated with vertical programs with strong advocacy like HIV, TB and malaria. Appropriate diagnosis will improve our ability to prevent and control.

These unbridled quests for foreign medical services by political elite are some of the reasons why the health sector is not improving or moving the way experts expect it to do. The Senate President David Mark also joined the growing list of political elite who embark on exotic medical tourism when he travelled to Israel ostensibly on public expenses to take care of his medical condition.

The Taraba State governor, Mr. Danfulai Suntai, a Pharmacist, who had accident while flying his private Jet was flown abroad to Germany for treatment. His wife was heavily pregnant even delivered twins in the same German hospital.Judges of Superior Courts also regularly embark on medical tourism abroad during vacation from the legal year.

As we move into year 2013, it is hoped that there will be more funds allocated to the sector as well as proper incentives for health personnel who will in turn provide better health care services.

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