That Nigeria was ranked low in the recently released global healthcare ranking is not surprising. The state of healthcare delivery in the country is appalling and there has been too much national lamentation over the situation for too long.
The report merely reinforced what is already known over which calls have been made for government to make improvements.
The first global healthcare ranking, which was based on a qualification of personal access and quality for 195 countries and territories from 1990 to 2015 placed Nigeria at the 140th position. Nigeria reportedly scored 51 points on the healthcare Access and Quality Index and that report was published in May 18 edition of the medical journal, The Lancet.
The study reportedly assessed the countries and ranked them from 0 to 100 with researchers creating a Healthcare Access and Quality Index based on the number of deaths from 32 causes that could be avoided by “timely and effective Medicare.”
The Healthcare Access and Quality Index tracked progress in each country compared to the benchmark year of 1990. The 32 diseases for which death rates were tracked include tuberculosis and other respiratory infections; illnesses that can be prevented with vaccines (diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and measles); several forms of treatable cancer and heart disease and maternal and neonatal disorders.
The result showed that virtually all countries improved over the period but many, especially, in Africa and Oceania fell further behind in providing basic care for their citizens. Nigeria, of course, lagged far behind most other African countries, which is shameful.
With the exception of Afghanistan, Haiti and Yemen, the 30 countries at the bottom of the ranking were all in sub-Saharan Africa, with the Central African Republic suffering the worst standards of all.
Tunisia ranked highest among the African nations at 89th position, followed by Libya at 90 and Egypt at 107. Other African countries that ranked ahead of Nigeria include Namibia at 117, South Africa at 118, Gabon at 120, Botswana at 121, Swaziland at 125, Algeria at129, Cape Verde at 131 and Morocco at 132.
The top raking countries were Andorra, Iceland, Switzerland, Sweden and Norway. Others were Finland, Spain, the Netherlands and Luxemburg in that order. The United Kingdom and United States were ranked 30 and 35 respectively.
All the 20 countries on top of the list, with the exception of Australia and Japan, are in Western Europe, where virtually every nation has some form of universal health coverage.
The need for improved healthcare system in Nigeria, therefore, cannot be over-emphasised. A lot has been written on this important issue. As a matter of fact, virtually, all the issues bordering on healthcare provision in Nigeria stem from the objectionable poor health infrastructure, administration and funding by the government.
Otherwise, every other critical ingredient of world-class medical care is available in the country. Nigeria is, indeed, blessed with some of the best medical doctors and health practitioners in the world.
Unfortunately, most of those highly educated and talented medical professionals are out in foreign countries excelling where the conditions and atmosphere are better. Nigeria’s poor healthcare infrastructure in particular, coupled with poor remuneration, is therefore responsible for the mass migration of Nigeria’s best hands in health care.
Without being prodded, government ought to recognise that the country is in trouble if there is no adequate healthcare for its teeming population. There is need for a re-calibration of the healthcare system for accessibility and efficiency in order to serve the population.
This, of course, is a challenge to the nation’s leadership at all levels.
A former Minister of Health, the late Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, raised the nation’s healthcare delivery system to a historic world standard through his focus on primary healthcare programme that attracted international support and which he vigorously drove with his personal commitment as well as integrity. Many international agencies supported the programme and funded it. UNICEF vehicles and personnel were found everywhere in the country, especially, in the rural areas implementing different aspects of the primary health care programme.
It is a national embarrassment of intense proportions that wealthy Nigerians, who can afford it, continue to flock to foreign countries to seek medical help while the poor are left with no option than to probably die. That is a sad testimonial for a country that is supposed to be the giant of and a model for Africa.
There is a need to raise the benchmark of funding of the health sector, no doubt. There is an urgent need to build the critical infrastructure as well as foist the right environment for good healthcare delivery system in Nigeria.
It is a worn phrase but no improvement can be made on the saying that a healthy nation is a wealthy one.