And now that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has called off its strike, has anyone bothered to count the cost especially in terms of human lives lost? Do we realise that while the strike lasted, innocent lives were wasted just like that and many families thrown into mourning and everlasting sorrow in an action that was clearly preventable? Or this doesn’t matter?
While I’ll admit that most of the demands being made by the doctors are reasonable as these would help in significantly improving our health system in the country, do we really understand that the cost of strikes in the health sector include loss of lives, both old and young? So, when the issues in contention are finally resolved, how do we bring back innocent Nigerians who lost their lives in the process? Really, what value do we place on the life of a Nigerian?
Like it has always been the case when doctors and other medical professionals go on strike, it is poor Nigerians who keep suffering for it. For how long will this continue? Frankly, if doctors and other medical professionals who believe they must earn their pay for the essential services they offer act like they are not bothered about their patients and fellow citizens, how about the government? What excuse does it have?
It’s really a shame to our country’s political class that, for years, they haven’t thought it wise and imperative to ensure that our country’s health system is top-notch. That Nigerians, no matter how poor, are able to have access to affordable medical care. Of a fact, the Nigerian system has been killing citizens. This continues still. Unfortunately!
In a country where top military officers have been found to be thieves and looters of funds meant for arms and security equipment; where politicians also convert public funds to private purposes at will without the fear of God, hardly ever fulfil the promises they make, and have consistently failed to do the needful in key areas like health, education and infrastructure; where professionals also compromise with the political class because of what they stand to gain; and citizens prefer docility rather than insisting on quality governance and accountability from leaders, it is glaring we are failing ourselves, our country, and the black race.
Additionally, when a President who campaigned on the premise of change still chooses to travel overseas for medical treatment even for an infection in the ear, then, we should know that the current politicians in power are still not getting things right. They don’t seem to understand the awesome responsibilities on them, or the high expectations of the people, or the fact that there is no time to waste, or that they will face the verdict of posterity when they are out of power and so cannot afford to destroy their legacies with their own hands.
Now, although the strike of the resident doctors may have been called off, the threat of another one yet remains going by what Adamu Askira, NARD President, stated in a communiqué issued at the end of an extraordinary national executive council meeting of the association in Abuja. The suspension of the strike, according to the association, is to enable the government implement agreements reached within the agreed time frame of on or before July 14, 2016.
Meanwhile, if the truth is to be told, many of these doctors are in many ways also short-changing the system. A good number of them run private hospitals, have medical laboratories, and operate pharmacies and such likes. Yet, they are not bothered holding their patients and the country to ransom. The competence of some of them is also suspect. A good number of these doctors cannot interpret results of medical tests correctly. Occasionally in complex medical situations, they even compound the cases of patients rather than help in solving them. Some also have terrible manners and human relations.
While it is true that when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, patients who are ignorant of whatever agreement these doctors had with government should no longer be the casualties or scapegoats. Nigerians now flock to India, Dubai, America, and Europe for medical tourism. For how long will this last? For how long more will this continue?
However, I believe we can change the narrative. President Buhari and other political leaders in the country must stop embarrassing Nigeria travelling abroad for medical treatment. Part of the change Nigerians expect from this administration is evident transformation of the country’s health sector. And the government needs to listen to professionals who are on the frontlines and work together with them to bring about the much-need change. I believe the health minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, can do this and write his name in gold.
I will also suggest that top Nigerian businesses and multinationals should be encouraged to support public hospitals through donation of equipment and materials as part of their corporate social responsibility initiatives. This will make tremendous impact.
And finally, I’d like to reiterate that problems which can be solved through vision, willpower, resources and commitment, and which other societies have confronted and surmounted by themselves, should no longer be allowed to fester here. It just doesn’t make any sense. We’ve wasted too many lives in this country and particularly through our comatose health system. Things cannot continue this way. Enough is enough.
Kolawole is an award-winning Nigerian journalist and author. You can reach him firstname.lastname@example.org. SMS Only: 08033983499. Twitter: @ofemigan
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