PRESIDENT BUHARI’S MEDICAL TRIP IN THE FACE OF ABJECT STATE OF PUBLIC HEALTHCARE AND IMMINENT NATIONWIDE DOCTORS’ STRIKE IS INSENSITIVE AND VEXATIOUS
SPN calls for peaceful mass protest in solidarity with doctors’ strike and to demand improved funding of healthcare
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) considers President Buhari’s trip to London on Tuesday 30th March 2021 for a “routine medical checkup” as insensitive, vexatious and an insult to Nigerians especially the working and poor people who have no choice but to continue to patronize, at enormous risk to their lives, a poor healthcare system. The trip is also an insult to health workers, especially doctors and nurses, who have been risking their lives since last year, with some paying the supreme price, to fight the coronavirus pandemic with very little support by government in terms of basic protection kits, equipment to work with and welfare.
It becomes all the more insulting and provocative considering the fact that President Buhari has jetted out of the country for his own medical treatment and care using public funds 48hours to the commencement of a nationwide strike by resident doctors. The doctors, who had given a 60-day strike notice since January 25th 2021, are preparing to withdraw their services from Thursday 1st of April on bothering issues of payment of arrears of house officers across the country, hazard allowance and others including support to the families of doctors who lost their lives in service. This will no doubt imperil the health and lives of many ordinary Nigerians who may lose their lives not because their ailments are terminal but because they are unfortunately governed by a self-serving president and ruling capitalist political party, the APC, which does not care about the interests of the working people.
Therefore beyond mere condemnation, the SPN believes concrete actions are need to send a note of warning to the capitalist elite that workers, the poor and youth will not continue to tolerate their failures to improve the conditions of our life, neither would we continue to overlook their temerity and shamelessness in rubbing salt into our collective wound by their insensitive conducts and actions.
It is for this reason that the SPN calls on the trade union organisations specifically, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC and their affiliates including civil society organisations, youth groups and all angry Nigerians to respond to the insult by embarking on a mass protest starting from Thursday 1st April 2021 when the nationwide strike of resident doctors is to commence to solidarise with the doctors’ demands, condemn Buhari’s medical tourism and also to demand improved funding and democratic management of public healthcare in Nigeria.
One of the things the coronavirus pandemic has done is to expose the weakness of the nation’s underfunded public healthcare sector and the urgency of improving the healthcare system in order to improve the lifespan and quality of life of Nigerians and to also prepare the country for the next pandemic. Unfortunately, President Buhari’s medical tourism shows that the regime has learnt no lesson. Very little has changed in the quality of healthcare sector in Nigeria. According to a May 18, 2020 publication by the Journal of Global Health Reports, Nigeria accounts for at least 20% of global maternal deaths (death of pregnant mother during childbirth). This meant a Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) of 814 per 100, 000 live births. Similarly, the lifetime risk of a Nigerian woman dying during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum or post-abortion is 1 in 22, in contrast to the lifetime risk in developed countries estimated at 1 in 4,900. In the same vein, very little efforts have been made to expand medical facilities as there are only 34, 000 Primary Health Centres (PHC) for a rapidly growing population of over 200 million.
It took threat of strikes and actual shutdown of hospitals by doctors last year before the federal government provided insurance cover for health workers and even till now, many doctors, nurses and other frontline health workers are still not covered in many states. Despite the immense sacrifices, the hazard allowance of doctors in Nigeria is still a measly N5, 000 per month way below what the President, governors, ministers, lawmakers and even local government chairmen and councillors spend to feed their pets in a week.
No doubt, the Buhari government and the APC have failed woefully. The fact that 6 years after taking power, president Buhari and many members of his kitchen cabinet cannot patronise public hospitals but instead are registered in expensive hospitals abroad is a clear evidence of this failure. However the PDP governments before them were equally a disaster.
Therefore, the only way forward is for health workers, the labour movement and the working masses to continue to fight for a well-funded healthcare sector under democratic workers control and management while simultaneously working to build a mass workers alternative political party to wrest power from the capitalist class and enthrone a workers and poor people’s government armed with socialist programmes.
Abiodun Bamigboye Chinedu Bosah
Acting National Chairperson National Secretary