Rethinking Healthcare

The average doctor to patient ratio in Nigeria as of 2020, is 1 per 2753 inhabitants. Within the past decade, human capital in the health sector has witnessed a decline. This is related to the increasing exodus of health professionals to western systems, an act in part mediated by low remuneration, and the lack of quality healthcare infrastructure.

When Money is Everything
A closer look at healthcare in Nigeria begins with the sector’s allocated budget and its effect on infrastructure development, work efficiency, and the resultant life expectancy of citizens. The sector was allocated N441bn, with N381bn for recurrent expenditure and N59.9bn for capital expenditure in 2020. Although this is a 13.3% increase from the N372bn in 2019, the allocation amounts to less than 5% of the overall budget and falls below the government’s agreement to allocate 15% of its annual budget to health, during the Abuja declaration of 2001. The country’s ever-increasing population and the outbreak of the coronavirus widened the budget gap.

The COVID-19 ‘Breakthrough’
With a weak public health care system and the largest population in Africa, sentiments globally and locally was that Nigeria would have a catastrophic outbreak and probably become the epicentre for the virus in Africa. The government went to work early by imposing restrictions and a lockdown. Stears Business reports there are now 66 government labs and over 15 private ones across the country with the NCDC working to ramp up testing. COVID-19 pandemic may have awakened the consciousness of stakeholders and policymakers to the work that needs to be done in Nigeria’s health care sector, which had a positive GDP growth of 1.89% in Q2 2020.

While the interventions against COVID-19 have resulted in fair health outcomes and what is possible, the sustainability of these interventions must be critically considered. The arbitrary allocation of resources reduces efficiency and potentiate wastage.

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