I have been reading with keen interest the news stories that have been published consistently on the national dailies about the move by the Federal Government to privatise Government hospitals both at Federal and States levels to halt the incessant strikes embark upon by the Health Workers and Doctors. Many Nigerians who cared about the Management of resources of this country will second to this move because, since the 70s and 80s, Government hospitals have been described as mere consulting rooms to date, nothing has change the status quo of these hospitals. Government, especially at State and Local Government erected structures, which they called or named hospitals but what qualified the structure to be hospitals was not there, that is, to say there are no equipment, no laboratory, no drugs, no skilled/well trained manpower etc.
Seventy per cent of State and Local Government hospitals were run inappropriately. Clinical Assistants, Community Health Extension Workers and nursing officers are the ones that consult patients, prescribe drugs and laboratory investigation. Drugs and investigations were never been provided free in these hospitals even an ordinary syringe of N10 naira cannot be granted in many general hospital what more of comprehensive health centres and health posts. Every year State and Local Government make huge budget for hospitals but very little benefit the common man.
In spite of the free antenatal care introduced by some State Government, pregnant women still carry razor blade, soap and cotton wool whenever they went to the hospital to deliver. Federal Government should delegate honest ordinary citizens to do this investigation for them with a view to ascertain these complaints and many more. Surgeries and admissions were also not provided free in many General Hospitals in Nigeria.
The story is also similar in term of the charges patients pay in General Hospitals with the one in Teaching Hospitals and Federal Medical Centres. Consultations, drugs investigations, admission (surgery) among others must be paid by any patient regardless of his/her social status (disability or poor) before service is provide. Even though, there are specialised equipment of all kind of investigations as well as trained skilled manpower at the Tertiary Hospitals. The disharmony and incessant strike by the health Professionals and Doctors has became a very serious impediment to the smooth running of the hospitals.
Between 2010 to date Doctors and other Health Care Professionals at Federal Health Institutions have embarked on strike for almost eight to 10 times which lasted from three weeks to three months and they only resume the industrial action because their salary will be stop after three month of the industrial strikes..
It is obvious that during every strike period, many patients both critical and stable will be discharged home “to go and die or continue to leave with their health problems” for patients that can manage to generate some funds from families and relations they move to private hospitals that they can afford.
The attitude of some health care providers and doctors especially those employed on permanent and pensionable appointment has nothing to write home about. The uncountable number of reports of complaints on neglect and maltreatment of patients by them in many government hospitals attest to that.
There is no doubt about it that the targeted public private partnership, PPP, in the health sector will improve efficiency, effectiveness, discipline and control on the incessant strike by health workers.
The privatisation will promote hardworking and productivity. It will also provide professionals wide range of avenue to practice in many health sectors at a given time thereby earning a lot of income.
It is quiet agreed that there are a lot of problems at both states and federal health care institutes, but in spite all that people especially the low, average and the poor people prepare to go to government hospitals because of safety and to run away from huge charges by the private hospitals.
An average income earner cannot afford to pay for health care services at private hospitals what more of the poor that don’t have any means of livelihood.
Even though, private hospitals provided quality care to the patients, but the services provided are also not qualitative because they too lack specialized equipment, standard laboratories well trained health care professionals e.g. Nurses, Lab. Scientists Pharmacists, etc to compliment their work as they cannot afford to pay them the salary required.
Notwithstanding, government should think before it tick, a lot of mistakes were committed in the introduction and implementation of certain government policies and programmes which were initially aimed at solving certain problems but at the end resulted in creating more problems in the country.
Government should note that what may be good for developed countries like America, Europe as well as developing countries such as Asia, and even in Africa might not be good for Nigeria due to so many reasons, which are obvious.
We need to look and study very well the progress, challenges and failure recorded on the government companies and parastatals that were initially privatised in the past, before embarking on more privatization of some hospital or organisations.
We all bear witness on the consequences of privatising Nigerian Airport Authority NAA, Nigerian Telecommunication Services NITEL and National Electricity Power Authority, NEPA among others as well as the deregulation of oil sector and globalisation.
It is really unfortunate and very sad to say that a whole Nigeria don’t have a single Air line not even domestic when the most poorest country in Africa like Sudan have and despite all the war, catastrophe and hardship that embedded their country their government is trying to maintain it a long with all those things that make the country sovereign.
The damage done by GSM companies to Nigeria cannot be quantified with what was achieved. These companies came into the country for the purpose of improving telecommunication services but have now become something else as they have introduced all sort of immoral behaviours vie GSM phones to both young and adults which is very difficult to change.
In addition, the companies are always embarking on extension work regularly which normally affects the government infrastructure along the extension areas. It is really sad that Nigerian Government allow all sort of foreigners to come and do business in the country without making a critical analysis on what they do by providing checks and balances. According, to one economic analyst some foreign companies operating in Nigeria don’t even pay tax to government.
The story of NEPA, PHCN and now KEDCO is still the same with other sectors that were privatised by government because the impact is still not yet harnessed. Nigerians only see regular power supply even though not stable during raining seasons, once the rain stops wahala returns. The improvement if at all there is, it is very insignificant.
When developed countries start assessing the achievements or progress of any development programme by ten to twenty years of implementation through research, Nigerian/Government always make assumption in its assessment.
Mr President, Baba Buhari we need positive change, the change that will impact on the common man we don’t want privatisation that will throw more Nigerians into the labour market, privatisation that will cause hardship, hunger and death into many families. We want development and transformation through human labour, we don’t want to be slaves and agents to other country’s development “they produce, we sale for them”, when we produce nobody buy.
Last line: the crisis in the health sector will never end so long as governments continue to respond to their requests and demands. It is therefore time for government as the employer of labour to take appropriate measures that will put a stop to these crises for the betterment of the common people.
Hauwa Muhd Abdullahi writes from grassroots Awareness Forum, Kano State.