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Health discourse and 2019 elections

As campaign for 2019 general election is drawing near, there are factors and issues that will define campaign towards the 2019 general elections for the presidential aspirants.  Apart from security issues especially the herdsmen and Boko Haram activities, another issue that will shape and influence the presidential campaign is the health discourse. How far will the leading presidential aspirants going to treat health issues especially providing funding for Maternal and Newborn Child Health (MNCH) in Nigeria. Will they achieve more than what we have on ground? Or will they take us backward?  

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The current administration has in 2018 federal budget allocated 1 % of the consolidated revenue fund to the health sector in compliance with National Health Act 2014. However, has the provision of the fund alone solve the problem in health sector?

Article 7 of the Patients’ Bill of Rights provides that a patient has the “right to receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care, in the event of an emergency “. In Nigeria, this right  has been treated as window dressing.  A case at hand was an incident that involved a female youth corps member who was shot by a policeman in Abuja when she went out with her friends to celebrate the completion of her one year service .He was rushed to the hospital but she did not make it because she did not receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care from the hospital. Other cases abound where patients were allowed to die because the hospital refused to give them urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care to keep them alive. Majority of people that died of gunshot injuries were due the hospital insistence of getting police report before treatment could commence. In this type of case patient’s right to receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care, in the event of an emergency has been violated

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Thus, any presidential aspirant that will bring out policy to ensure patient’s right to receive urgent, immediate and sufficient intervention and care, in the event of an emergency is observed will likely win sympathy of majority of electorates during the election. 

Furthermore article 11 of the Patients’ Bill of Rights provides for right to quality care in accordance to prevailing standards. This right in Nigeria is yet to be fully complied with. Patients in Nigeria have been degraded to the extent that they do not even care to demand for their rights. In fact, this right has been reduced to the lowest ebb due to poverty and economic hardship in the country. Antenatal patients are subjected to all manners of ill treatments just to be attended to in the majority of government hospitals. Some of them go to the hospital as early as 5 am just to write down their names on the attendance register to enable them receive antenatal care from nurses and midwives on time.  Such a person in that state of mind may not have time to demand for her right when she receives poor treatment from the hospital. 

Any presidential aspirant that will be able to address this problem especially bringing out policies on how to support citizens to advocate for their rights to quality care in accordance to the prevailing standards will likely sway majority of electorates to vote for his or her party during the 2019 general elections.

What we need in Nigeria at the moment is government that will not only care but feel the pains of the citizens in the health sector so as to be able to enforce patients’ rights. A government that encourages medical tourism may be far from assisting citizens to enforce these patients’ rights in Nigeria. As we enters into electoral campaign period, candidates should be assessed based on their commitments to health sector because a healthy nation is also a wealthy nation.

Kingsley Nnajiaka, Abuja. 

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