By Alexander O. Onukwue
If only there was a hospital in Nigeria which was built at a cost of N41 billion just two years ago, stuffed with many state-of-the-art medical equipments and staffed by many consultants, perhaps former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme, would not need to be flown abroad for medical treatment.
But there is such a hospital; built by Senator Godwill Apkabio and hurriedly commissioned before the expiration of his tenure in May 2015, and left to run down due to bureaucratic squabbling between the Akwa Ibom state Ministry of Health and hospital management. Last month, it was reported by Premium Times that the Ibom Specialist hospital has been shut down, not even offering services as basic as X-Rays or MRI scans.
The story of healthcare in Nigeria is a very sad and sorry one. Last week on twitter, the conversations of some doctors went viral in which the topic was of mass exodus of practitioners from the country’s collapsing facilities. The once exulted discipline of medicine is no longer as attractive as it once was and it is not uncommon to find a doctor in a government facility who will tell you he or she would have done it differently if they had the opportunity to choose a career.
Such regrets do not come from a sudden discovery of hypocrisy in the Hippocratic Oath nor of the absence of the high and rush of scrubbing in for surgeries and handling complex procedures. A good number of these practitioners are disenchanted with the system because it simply does not work.
No tools, no drugs, and depleting food on their own tables.
Much anger has been expressed after President Buhari’s announcement that Dr Ekwueme will be flown abroad for treatment at the expense of the State. The vexations directed at Buhari’s perceived showmanship are arguably a transfer of aggression from other matters of State. If one of them were most justified, it would surely be the continued lack of medical facilities that can cater for the acute and chronic healthcare needs of the mass of the population.
Ekwueme will be flown abroad and get the best treatment money can buy because he is guaranteed such privileges in the Constitution as a former leader. For the common men and women who have need of the same level of service, the country’s facilities hold no hope and where personal savings cannot cater, crowdfunding appeals become the major resort for procuring expensive healthcare.