SOUR TALES OF THE NIGERIAN HEALTH SECTOR

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Qualitative healthcare is dependent on power. Whether it be a simple vaccine cold-chain system, blood banking, or complex brain surgeries, electricity has an immense role to play in healthcare delivery in the 21st century so much so that the U.K Department of Health – reputed to oversee the world’s best primary health care delivery service – named electricity as the ‘most vital of all infrastructure services’ because ‘without it most other services will not function’. Access to electricity is critical to health care delivery and to the overarching goal of universal health coverage.

Electricity is huge. Power is a big issue. We mustn’t fail to discuss it.

The nation’s electricity capacity, according to figures from the Federal Ministry of works, power, and Housing, was placed at 12,600MW while current supply still hovers below the 4,000MW line. Thus, we have an obvious shortfall which most Nigerian are all too familiar with. Electricity is also required for lighting heat management, electronic diagnostic tools, as well as refrigerating medical supplies and vaccines. Without these indispensable tools and consumables, the fight against HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, etc. cannot be won.

Read: A Potential Power Solution

My intense firsthand experience was during my mum’s surgery in a government-run medical center in Port Harcourt. There was a power outage during the surgery and the generator refused to start. This made the surgeons operate with rechargeable lamps for over 15minutes. At least that was an upgrade. Before the lamps came, they were using our phone flashlights. This is one of the many examples of the ill-effect of insufficient electricity supply to the health sector.

 

Power affects everything, from sterilization of medical equipment, intensive care to the provision of clean water, access to energy is a critical element for healthcare development to take place. This begs the question – is Nigeria doing enough to alleviate the downtrodden state of power supply to the health sector, or they’d rather continue spending enormous figures budgeted on health, on trips abroad to get medical care? After all, the leaders of today would rather embark on an overseas trip to get checked than investing that money in resuscitating the almost extinct health sector of the nation, thus, living the masses to their fate health wise.

The deplorable state of the Nigerian health sector can be traced to the amount of energy they are subjected to working with when compared to the acclaimed amount spent for its improvement by the leaders, is that of ‘vanity run a mock’ with no substantial evidence to show for it.  The Nigerian health sector story is that of ‘sweet and sour’ as its telltales run from that of losing patients due to power cut during a procedure, to that of losing patients to numerous infections due to insufficient power supply to sterilize the medical equipment – the issue of an empty blood bank is now a norm as there’s never sufficient power to store them – these stories are a far cry from being ended. There’s also the issue of lagging behind in terms of infrastructure and tech innovations. This can be attributed to a lack of research that can produce workable solutions if backed up by an adequate power supply. Thus, solutions in Nigeria healthcare industry, especially tech solutions have to as a matter of necessity, factor in poor relative lack of power.

 

One might even be tempted to ask if crude and other natural resources in Nigeria is a curse or a blessing. The highest oil producing country in Africa but our leaders lack cannot translate and convert this natural wealth bestowed on her into bettering the lives of her citizenry Vis a Vis the health sector? Is there really a solution to the lingering problems bedeviling the health sector – so as to make true the assertion that Health is wealth?

 

The government should bear in mind that Healthcare is a business, one which requires adequate financing at that, like all businesses, it doesn’t run on goodwill. It runs on money and electricity. Plenty of it. Thus to successfully overcome the power hurdles in the health and/or tech environment in Nigeria, a SOLID CAPITAL BASE is essential to its survival.

Notice very little mention has been made of government intervention so far, even though the provision of electricity and affordable healthcare delivery are primarily the functions of government? Well, from 1999 to date, over ₦2.8 tn – has been spent by government on power alone, yet no tangible results. Why? Cronyism, corruption, lack of skill, among others have been blamed, but even if the ministry of power, works and housing suddenly is led by saints, it will still take years and billions of Naira to fix our power issues. Sadly, ours is a country in which entrepreneurs still strive despite the government rather than because of it.

Aside from government direct intervention in the amount of energy supply, stakeholders in the health sector should look into alternate power sources such as solar and other renewable sources of energy available in the market. It is also worthy to note that, acquiring battery-powered equipment and taking a plunge into the innovative tech market should be prioritized by the health sector, as this will reduce the dependency of electrically generated power supply – which is an obvious shortage in the nation.

In summary, it is my take that solutions must be developed in the light of our current power challenges. Thus we have to search for available sources of renewable energy that suit our unique needs, get medical equipment that is battery operated and rechargeable, or equipment with other sustainable options. Finally, in all thy getting, get enough capital – Money is grease to every wheel, and the Nigerian Health sector is no exception.

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