Nigerian doctors use candlelight to perform operations

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Some doctors in Nigeria use candlelight to perform operations due to the dearth of funding for the sector, a medical practitioner told a Senate panel during a public hearing on the 2017 budget yesterday.



Benjamin Anyele, chairman, Health Sector Reform Coalition, said this when he delivered a keynote address to the surprised lawmakers.



“It has gotten so bad that Nigerians are running mental without knowing, nurses use candlelight to assist in carrying out operations,” Anyele told the lawmakers.



Arguing for increased funding for the health sector, Anyele decried the dearth of funding for primary healthcare centres in Nigeria, saying “it portends grave danger for national development.”



Nigeria’s 2017 budget allocated N252.87 billion for recurrent and N51 billion capital expenditure representing a mere 4.1 percent of the entire budget.



This allocation falls short of the 15 percent agreed by African Union countries in the 2001 Abuja Health declaration.



Health sector workers fear that critical areas such as routine immunisation, family planning, ending childhood killer diseases, nutrition, child and maternal health funded at primary health centres in rural areas may see a decline.



“The budget proposals are too low to achieve any appreciable impact in the health sector, government is still not paying adequate attention to primary healthcare which is what the country needs,” Obitade Obimakinde, a medical practitioner at Ekiti State University Teaching Hospital, Ado Ekiti, told BusinessDay on telephone.



More attention should have been paid to improving access to primary healthcare, as it is the closest to the poor and vulnerable, he said. Prior to the commencement of the public hearing on the budget, segments of health sector pressure groups took to social media urging the Federal Government to increase health sector funding.



Anyele demonstrated the impact of this situation by saying, “The vaccines we have today is from the loan by World Bank two years ago, nothing new, without those we would be in trouble.”

“The sector is already in trouble. Health workers are often on strike due to intractable union differences. Primary health centres reek with neglect and fake or expired medication kills many,” he said.



Nigeria, with a population of over 170 million, has only 40,000 registered doctors. Out of this, 19,000 have left to practise overseas.



Among those at home, 70 percent practise in the urban areas, where only 30 percent of the populace live in the rural area.



The ideal doctor – patient ratio should be 1:600, but in Nigeria, there are over 50,000 people to one doctor and 1,066 for one nurse.



Nigeria ranks number one in tuberculosis infection but devoted only N541 million in the 2017 budget, instead of N2 billion required to contain it, Anyele said.



The Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Investment Authority (NSWIA) said 30,000 Nigerians spent $1 billion on medical tourism in 2014.