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Osinbajo and the rot in the Nigeria health sector by Bright Okuta

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Vice President Yemi Osinbajo OGO
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo

On July 16, 2022, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo announced, through his media aide, Mr. Laolu Akande that he was admitted at Duchess Hospital, Lagos, for a surgery on account of a right femur (thigh bone) fracture as a result of an injury that was associated with a game of squash he played.

Nigerians on social media sent good wishes to the VP. Opposition politicians, including Peter Obi wished the vice President a quick recovery.

The confidence and trust, the Vice President deposited in Nigerian doctors are worthy of commendation and emulation. And for once, we have a Nigerian politician, the rank of the Vice President who didn’t just come out in public to disclose his ailment as a public figure without unnecessary drama, suspense and suspicion, but also used a Nigerian hospital for corrective surgery.

Ordinarily, it makes no modicum of sense to point this out, if the health sector and the Nigerian system were in a working condition like in saner climes. It iis the appropriate thing to do, but it is a big deal because this is Nigeria where there’s systemic rot in every sector.

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Some sources from the Presidency claimed the Vice President was advised to undergo the surgery abroad, but he insisted on having it done in Nigeria because he believes in Nigerian doctors.

I would have passed this for one of those election shenanigans if he did that before the APC presidential primaries. It would have been tagged ‘election theatrics,’ acted deliberately to manipulate the minds of Nigerians and score cheap political points. But that wasn’t the case as this happened more than a month after losing the Presidential primary.

An average Nigerian politician possesses a swollen appetite for medical tourism. Medical tourism, a term used to describe people traveling abroad to obtain medical care, has become a very common practice by Nigerian politicians including the President of the country, Muhammadu Buhari.

Since the inception of his administration, the President has spent a total of 201 days on medical tourism outside the country. Billions of Naira have been spent, meanwhile, the Nigerian health sector is submerged in a foul smell that oozes a stench like putrid fish.

Like always, the ordinary Nigerians are the victims of this systemic rot. Public hospitals are grossly inadequate and not properly equipped, with a paucity of funds to manage them; obsolete medical equipment; low medical personnel with minuscule salaries and shortage of doctors.

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An average Nigerian health worker desires to travel abroad where they are valued and paid handsomely. Where the government caters to the welfare of health workers with mouthwatering incentives and other benefits.

In contrast, the welfare condition of healthcare workers here in Nigeria is so bad that it erases their enthusiasm for doing their job and therefore affects their empathy for human life.

Sick patients queue for hours to see doctors in government hospitals, which, in most cases, doctors on duty are at most two or three attending to over 300 patients.

In 2021, I spent 10 weeks at Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja, and I witnessed firsthand, the pathetic condition of critically sick patients and how they are treated. Although public hospitals are ill-equipped, Nigeria has a lot of state-of-the-art and purpose-built private hospitals that can cater to the health demands of any kind of sickness including transplants.

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But how many Nigerians can afford these hospitals? How many Nigerians can afford to pay 50,000—100,000 for a day in a hospital bed?

It should be a matter of urgency that the federal government focuses on the deteriorating health sector to revamp it.

Politicians should stop medical tourism abroad.

There should be a bill that will mandate all public office holders to use Nigerian hospitals for their health care, just like the Vice President did.

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Bright Okuta writes from Abuja

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