Nigeria Healthcare – major challenges and solutions

Nigeria faces numerous healthcare issues, including inadequate infrastructure, a shortage of healthcare professionals, and limited access to quality care. Here is an overview of the Nigeria healthcare and major steps that can be taken to help improve the healthcare system in Nigeria.

John Stephen
A doctor checking patient temperature with a digital Thermometer

Health Telescope access the Nigeria’s healthcare in an effort to understand the major challenges facing the Nigeria healthcare facilities and health system. This is an assessment of the Nigeria healthcare challenges and possible solutions.

Overview of Nigeria Healthcare

The healthcare system in Nigeria is mainly driven by the public sector. Currently, 66 percent of the country’s 34,000 health facilities are owned by three tiers of government, namely; federal, State and local. Meanwhile, the Private sectors and international Agencies still contribute largely to the provision of health services. It is also important to note that secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities are mainly located in urban areas, while primary health facilities are prevalent in Nigeria’s rural areas – villages.

According to the 2023 mid year chart of Global Healthcare rankings, Nigeria is ranked 87th 0f 94 countries.

Factors affecting Nigeria healthcare

The factors affecting Nigeria healthcare are numerous, but her the major factors affecting the Nigeria Healthcare, they include;

  • Healthcare is Too Expensive for Most Nigerians: Accessing healthcare in Nigeria is too expensive to an average Nigerian. Both the federal and state governments have to invest more in basic health care by expanding the national insurance scheme to reduce the cost of healthcare services. Currently, funding for the national insurance scheme is done through the taxing of federal employees and employers whose money is then used as a social health security system to cover the needs of the population.

As of today, 72 percent of total health expenditures in Nigeria are out-of-pocket expenditure. In fact, out-of-pocket payments for healthcare services account for a significant percentage of household expenditures in Nigeria. Nigeria is amongst the countries that rank high for out-of-pocket expenditure.

The Nigerian national insurance scheme only covers employees working in the federal government, which is roughly 3 percent of the population over 218.5 Million People. Furthermore, only about 5 percent of the population have “prepaid” health care through government-provided health insurance or a voluntary private insurance plans.

  • Patients Are Uninformed: One of the major challenges in the healthcare sector in Nigeria is that people are not aware of the current health issues they have. Since most Nigerians rely heavily on medical opinions from unqualified individuals, such as authoritative family members, patients do not feel empowered to learn more about their health and they are not actively engaged in the decision-making process of improving their well-being.

Furthermore, due to the lack of clarity around what illnesses are plaguing citizens, many patients can be misdiagnosed especially when receiving care at facilities with inadequately trained staff. When there is little investment in the workforce, misdiagnoses are so common, therefore, many Nigerians do not seek the medical expertise of a doctor until their condition significantly worsens.

  • Lack of Funding to Build and Maintain Infrastructure: Although, Nigerian healthcare workers are highly-knowledgeable especially at tertiary care facilities, they, however, do not have adequate resources to keep up with the continuous development occurring in the global healthcare sector. This fact remains true despite the resources being dedicated to research and development within the global health arena – with a projected 9% of GDP globally allocated to health spending by 2040.

In general, healthcare is usually financed through public expenditure, private expenditure, or external aid. Public expenditure includes government expenditure spent by state-owned enterprises; private expenditure includes payments by individuals and employers; while external aid refers to the capital, which comes through bilateral aid programs or international, non-governmental organizations.

one of the major challenges in the healthcare industry in Nigeria is the inadequate allocation of financial resources to improve and maintain the general public’s health. Currently, the existing health care resource allocation is skewed, with a high proportion going towards secondary and tertiary care facilities. This means that people tend to bypass the primary health care facilities in search of better care in the secondary and tertiary facilities.

This results to inefficiencies (because these centers are overburdened with medical issues that can be addressed at the primary level) and inequities (because care is more expensive at the secondary and or tertiary care center and average individual cannot usually afford this care.

  • Lack of Properly Trained and Compensated Staff: Another major challenge in the healthcare sector is that there are not enough properly trained staff to meet demand. The few well-trained doctors are overburdened and most of the medical staff are not compensated well. These factors make staying and working in the healthcare system a less desirable option.

In fact, adequate compensation is lacking so much in this sector that the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU), an association of all health workers apart from medical doctors and dentists, called a nationwide strike to get the government to heed to some of its major demands.

These demands included salary adjustments, promotion arrears, and improved work environment for members. Unfortunately, these strikes have left a lot of Nigerians that rely on the public healthcare system without healthcare assistance during the duration of the strike.

Recommendations and Solutions to Nigeria Healthcare

Looking at the aforementioned challenges, its important that priority is placed on the health sector in Nigeria. Reviving Nigeria’s healthcare system is a complex and multi-faceted challenge that requires a combination of policy changes, investments, and community engagement. Nigeria faces numerous healthcare issues, including inadequate infrastructure, a shortage of healthcare professionals, and limited access to quality care. Here are major steps that can be taken to help improve the healthcare system in Nigeria:

  • Increase Healthcare Funding: Government must allocate a higher percentage of the national budget to healthcare. Adequate funding is crucial for improving infrastructure, purchasing medical equipment, and training healthcare professionals.
  • Health Insurance: Government should expand and improve access to health insurance schemes, such as the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), to ensure that more Nigerians can afford healthcare services.
  • Strengthen Primary Healthcare: Both government and private bodies should focus on strengthening primary healthcare centers at the community level. These centers should be equipped to handle common health issues and provide preventive care. By doing this, it will reduce the inflow of people from the rural areas to urban centers in search of better medical facility.
  • Invest in Infrastructure: Government should strive to upgrade and expand healthcare infrastructure, including hospitals, clinics, and medical laboratories. Ensure that these facilities are well-equipped and staffed with skilled healthcare professionals.
  • Human Resource Development: Health workers are not machines, government should Invest in the training and development of healthcare professionals. Address the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers by expanding medical education programs and offering incentives for healthcare professionals to work in underserved areas. Government should also Invest in medical research and development to foster innovation in healthcare and pharmaceuticals.
  • Telemedicine: Promote the use of telemedicine and other technology-driven healthcare solutions to reach underserved areas and improve healthcare access, especially in remote regions.
  • Community Engagement: Involve local communities in healthcare planning and decision-making. Community health workers can play a vital role in raising awareness and delivering basic healthcare services.
  • Public Health Education: Launch public health campaigns to educate the population about preventive healthcare measures, such as vaccination, hygiene, and nutrition.
  • Regulation and Quality Assurance: Strengthen healthcare regulation and quality assurance mechanisms to ensure that healthcare services meet established standards.
  • Public-Private Partnerships: Government must collaborate with the private sector and other international bodies to expand healthcare services and infrastructure. Public-private partnerships can help fill gaps in healthcare provision.
  • Data Collection and Analysis: Both government and private must implement a robust healthcare data collection and analysis system to monitor health trends, allocate resources effectively, and make data-driven decisions.
  • Anti-Corruption Measures: Government should implement strict anti-corruption measures to ensure that funds allocated for healthcare are used effectively and not siphoned off.
  • Political Will and Leadership: This is very important to making the healthcare system work better. Strong political will and leadership at all levels of government are essential to drive healthcare reforms and ensure accountability.

It’s important to note that revitalizing the healthcare system in Nigeria is a long-term process that requires sustained efforts and collaboration among various stakeholders, including government agencies, healthcare providers, civil society, and the private sector. Additionally, addressing the social determinants of health, such as poverty and education, is integral to improving overall health outcomes in Nigeria to all Nigerians.

Video talks to show the healthcare challenges in Nigeria. Credit: AriseNews

Related: Biography of Nigeria health minister

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