The State Of Nigeria’s Healthcare System And The Fight Against Coronavirus

The new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is sending countries around the globe on their feet as they struggle to contain the menace.

The novel coronavirus causes respiratory illness in persons with or without any underlying illnesses. Studies have shown the virus is exceptionally harmful to the elderly and persons with weakened immune systems. The CDC recommends that people in this category pay more attention to the coronavirus.

Infected young people are more likely to need very little medical treatment and have a higher chance of surviving the virus.

Image: The coronavirus (covid-19)

Symptoms of the coronavirus include cold, cough, high fever, dizziness and in extreme cases, pneumonia and bronchitis.

Examples of similar diseases are SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome).

How is the coronavirus spread? 

 The virus is primarily spread through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose of an infected person when they cough or sneeze. When any of these come in contact with the eyes, ears, nose and mouth, then a non-carrier becomes infected. The WHO is yet to fully ascertain that the coronavirus can survive in air.

How to protect yourself from the coronavirus as recommended by health experts:

1. Ensure that you keep away from areas that have cases of the virus.

2. Avoid people who are sick with a cough and fever.

3. Wash your hands as often as possible or make use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

4. Wear protective gear such as hand gloves, nose masks and glasses if caring for a sick person.

5. AVOID touching your face.

6. Practice social distancing and self-isolation if you have any of the symptoms or feel you have been exposed.

If you are showing symptoms of the coronavirus and fear you may have been exposed, the number to call in Nigeria is 0800 9700 0010.

How the healthcare system is divided/classified in Nigeria?

The provision of healthcare is the primary function of the three tiers of government: Federal, State, and the Local Government. 

The primary healthcare system is managed by the LGAs, with support from their state ministries of health and private medical practitioners. The primary healthcare system has its sublevels at the villages, districts, and LGA. 

The secondary healthcare system is managed by the ministry of health at the state level. Patients at this level are referred from the primary healthcare centres in the Local governments. This is the first level of specialty services and is available at different divisions in the state. 

The state primary health care comprises laboratory and diagnostic services, rehabilitation and more.

The tertiary primary healthcare is provided by teaching hospitals and specialist hospitals. The Federal Government also works with voluntary organisations as well as non-governmental organizations and private practitioners to provide specialist healthcare.

The state of Nigeria’s healthcare system

The Nigerian Healthcare System is saddled with the responsibility of providing adequate and timely medical care to the people and to also monitor and control disease outbreaks in the country.

The Nigerian healthcare department has suffered several infectious disease outbreaks year after year and there have been occasions remedial efforts were less than effective due to the nation’s inadequacy to provide basic healthcare for its citizens.

Nigeria’s healthcare system is grossly underdeveloped with very little or no surveillance system and no proper documentation. The government is also of very little help when it comes to this aspect with below 10 per cent of the country’s yearly budget constituting for health and education. This amounts to a little over a thousand naira per citizen when an average hospital would charge about a thousand naira for consultation fees alone.

Nigeria is popularly known and referred to as the Giant of Africa but when it comes to healthcare, the country is nowhere near a giant. Nigeria, like most countries in Africa, is riddled with problems of poor healthcare infrastructure.

Amongst the numerous problems suffered by the healthcare system in Nigeria are:

a. Inadequate staffing

The Nigerian healthcare system is full of title-only professionals who are not well-grounded in their profession and not very well learned. The entire system in Nigeria is also understaffed and those who are available are not paid well.

b. Poor funding

Another major factor limiting the progress of the healthcare system in Nigeria is inadequate funding from the government, both at the local, state and federal level. There are currently not enough hospitals all around the country, especially in rural areas.

The available hospitals are not well furnished with the necessary equipment required to save human lives. There is a very low supply of drugs to these hospitals too.

Hospital bills are mostly too expensive for the ordinary man to afford.

Other factors are the inability of the healthcare system to provide helpful information to the public concerning the spread of communicable diseases and in the appropriate time-space. The healthcare system also does not have enough facilities to keep track of patients and health issues all around the country as there is no trusted database system. 

Based on the budget and the amount stipulated to healthcare, the country will be unable to tackle this pandemic due to lack of funds and properly equipped hospitals should the need arise.

Healthcare is only accessible to only 44 per cent of the population due to the fact that about 55 per cent of the population live in rural areas and only 45 per cent live in urban areas.

Research has also proven that 70 per cent of the nation’s healthcare is provided by private vendors and only 30 per cent by the government which the average rural dweller who is estimated to earn less than a  dollar daily is unable to afford. It has also been observed that a big per cent of the drugs dispensed are substandard.

Finally, with the way the healthcare system of Nigeria currently is, only a select few such as the rich or well-to-do will be in the space to go for tests or see specialists to receive proper medical care for the coronavirus.

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