A new report authored by the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in partnership with the Justice & Empowerment Initiatives (JEI) and with support from Corporate Accountability & Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), has revealed that commercialisation of healthcare system undermined Nigeria’s response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.
Released officially at a press briefing in Lagos, the report titled, ‘The failure of commercialised healthcare in Nigeria during the COVID-19 pandemic: Discrimination and inequality in the enjoyment of the right to health’, highlighted how governmental policies and international development actors encouraged the growth of private and commercial healthcare, depriving the poor masses of access to decent healthcare.
Speaking at the press briefing, Akinbode Oluwafemi, Executive Director of CAPPA, argued that commercialisation of the country’s healthcare system was not the solution to the challenges faced in the sector.
“Commercialisation of healthcare services is not what Nigerians need. It will only lead to costs that are unaffordable for the poor and vulnerable. What Nigerians need is healthcare service that is publicly funded and available to all irrespective of social and economic status,” Mr Oluwafemi said.
On his part Andrew Maki, co-director at Justice & Empowerment Initiatives, said that access to quality healthcare service should not be determined by the financial status of an individual, he called on the government to do more to ensure that every Nigerians are guaranteed the right to life.
Rossella De Falco, Programme Officer on the Right to Health at the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, highlighted that the ‘Widespread commercialisation and privatisation of healthcare services stand in the way of the realisation of the right to health in Nigeria.”
She argued that Public healthcare systems are more resilient to shocks such as pandemics and are thus fundamental for the realisation of the right to health.
Further making case for public health care system, the report detailed that Nigeria with a highly commercialised system has not adequately coped with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report disclosed that Nigeria has a critical shortage of lifesaving equipment to treat acute cases of COVID-19, such as ventilators, oxygen and qualified specialists.
The National Strategic Health Development Plan (2018-2022) sets out as a goal the promotion of public-private partnerships in healthcare. As a result, an estimated 60% of all healthcare services are provided by the private sector, amongst the largest shares in Sub-Saharan Africa.
In May 2020, Nigeria had only 500 ventilators against the 20,325 needed to urgently address the epidemic. Also the intensive care unit (ICU) had only 0.17 beds per 100.000 inhabitants.
Giving reason for the sorry state of healthcare facilities, the report said the healthcare sector was grossly underfunded.
It said health spending as a share of general government expenditure decreased from 7.3% in 2006 to as little as 4.4% in 2018, below similar African states such as South Africa and Kenya, and far below the 15% of their annual national budget to which the African Union States committed to in the Abuja Declaration.
The report also found insufficient regulation and monitoring of private health providers.
In its recommendation, the report called for an increase of government funding to at least 15% of the budget to meet the Abuja commitment and expand the availability of quality, well-coordinated public healthcare services.