Creating an Accessible Healthcare System: A case for Nigeria
Healthcare systems play a vital role in any given society in helping people maintain and improve their health. All healthcare systems, either in developed or developing countries, have common challenges which only but defer in degree of magnitude. Whatever the challenges may be, it is very important that they are continually tackled, managed or possibly eradicated for the major purpose of accessibility to the common man in the grassroots.
Nigeria healthcare system, just like other sister systems, is on a rehabilitative path towards what is obtainable in the developed parts of the world. This is well illuminated by our recent triumph over the dreaded army of death led by Captain Ebola. It is, however, important to note that more has to be done especially in the realm of increasing accessibility to quality healthcare to all irrespective of tribe, ethnic background, income and disability.
It is pertinent to note that provision of healthcare is a concurrent responsibility of the three tiers of government in the country. Private health providers also have an important role to play in healthcare delivery. The Nigerian Government is committed to quality and accessible public health services through the provision of primary healthcare in rural areas as well as provision of preventive and curative services. This is provided by the local government authority through health posts and health centres. Thus, emphasizing the impact of local government in the provision of adequate healthcare services to the grassroots.
Research has highlighted various barriers to accessible healthcare services in Nigeria. They include but are not limited to: insufficient number of medical personnel, uneven distribution of medical personnel, traditional and cultural conservatism, disability unfriendly health centres, long queue and high waiting time, deterioration of government facilities, high cost and poor topographical and weather conditions. These aforementioned challenges need to be addressed because accessibility to healthcare is an important health outcome which has implications has national growth and development.
The government should increase the scope of the Nigeria Health Insurance Scheme to include the rural dwellers. This will improve the affordability of care bearing in mind the high level of poverty in the country. Efforts should be made to reduce the concentration of healthcare workers in urban areas and transfer some to the rural areas with periodic supervision of the rural medical workers. It is pertinent to commend the efforts of the Federal Government in utilizing the National Youth Service Corp programme in sending fresh graduate professionals to rural communities for the sake of national development and national integration.
However, more can be done by utilizing the NYSC scheme to improve accessibility to healthcare by transferring more medical graduates to rural communities. Rural communities as well as the general community at large should be informed on the need to embrace modern medical practices against crude conservative cultural health beliefs and practices. Teaching hospitals and other health centres should adopt UNICEF’s universal design and modification of the physical environment for sake of increased accessibility to individuals with disabilities. There should be a national approach to health education and promotion which may lead to improved community participation and involvement. Government at all levels should advocate, support and show commitment for health equity where everyone irrespective of his/her socio-economic background, ethnic affinity and ability status will have equal access to healthcare. It is also only not imperative to build more hospitals and health centres but also equip them with modern facilities for the sake of providing quality healthcare to the people. Hospitals and health centres should be well staffed to reduce waiting time and queue in general and teaching hospitals and other health centres.
The panacea to improved healthcare accessibility is not limited to those proffered above alone. But, they can go a long to propel the healthcare system to a path where every Emeka, Yemisi, Haruna, Ebi or Chinedu with a specified disability will face little or no barriers to access quality healthcare in their motherland.