With the current state of the Nigerian healthcare service and delivery, a Dental Surgeon and CEO Newcross Petroleum Limited, Dr. Bolaji Ogundare in this interview with Rebecca Ejifoma, called on the private sector to invest in the health sector among other issues
Where is the Nigerian health system heading to?
The state of healthcare is not going in the right direction. We should be encouraging doctors and teachers so they can start doing things differently in the future. We have to stop doing things the way we were doing them in the past because if we continue that way, we are going to go the wrong direction.
At the recent lecture I had at the 11th Dental Science College of Medicine, University of Lagos, we motivated people to look differently at what we need to do to build back the state of healthcare.
There is a missing link between health professionals and their practice. Nigerians, even her leaders, go abroad for medical attention. How can we balance this?
I think one of the things that has to happen is for us to reinvest in our health institutions. Many people have money but they are not spending it on their health. We are busy building mansions and other things. But when we fall sick, we expect these doctors who have not really been invested in to treat us.
We need to encourage doctors to be motivated to do their job. When you see a situation where a doctor, who has gone to school for 12 years is now earning 500 naira per hour and you expect them to be motivated. They can’t be.
We need to reinvest in our healthcare. This will motivate people to do their jobs, especially those we rely on for our healthcare.
How can dental services in Nigeria be enhanced?
This has to do with awareness. A lot of people don’t even know what dentists do exist or if they exist. They just wait for their teeth to start aching them, then they remove it themselves. Even the dental society has to do a lot in regards to educating people in general. Besides the enlightenment, I think the institution has to invest in treating people.
Right in Mushin, a lot of people still do not go to College of Medicine, UNILAG for treatment because they don’t know there is a dentist here. I was told the school organised an outreach mission outside of Mushin to enlighten the people on dentistry. That has to be an ongoing campaign for the people to know where to go. That is very important and will make the changes.
How can we improve the educational resources for dental services to be more effective?
It’s unfortunate. I tell people, dental education is one of the most expensive in the world. When you think about medicine, they learn with their stethoscope, their brain and their hands. Lawyers learn by reading. But with dentistry, you have to invest in equipment, materials and in treating people. Those things aren’t free.
The tough part is that most people still see dentistry as free education. Even in Kumasi in Ghana, people who go to school, pay for it. You have to pay and invest in your school. A lot of people who go to school willingly spend money on IPhone and gadgets but they want free education.
In addition, the private sector has to be challenged to support the hospitals. We cannot depend anymore on government to give allocation all the time – it cannot afford it. Instead the institutions have to start reaching out to private organisations to help them in funding healthcare.
Dentistry in Nigeria is broken from all what you have said. How can it be repaired?
There are many factors, but one has to tackle it one at a time. We have to tackle it from the education of the doctors. We need to make sure we improve the moral of doctors. A lot of them are demoralised. Infrastructure has to be built. The University of Lagos is supposed to be one of the top in Nigeria. And if you look at it, the level of the standard there is below what is expected.
Now, neither the government nor the hospitals have money to give them. So, they have to look for a way to raise that fund themselves by partnering private institutions or by charging tuition fee.
In addition, instead of dentists to go out to open their own practice, hospitals can encourage them to have a private practice within the hospital, then they share the revenues from it. That way, it is generating some money for the doctors so they don’t have to go out. It then becomes a win-win situation.
Does Lagos State need more hospitals or restructuring?
Building more hospitals is not what is needed. The most important thing is getting the people to use the health institutions. It is not a matter of putting the physical structure. It is making sure we have the human resources to man those hospitals. So, you will find out that in some big hospitals there aren’t enough doctors or specialists.
It is better to have primary healthcare centres in specific areas that have general doctors. The access to healthcare is what is important.
What is your message to doctors and students of health profession?
We should refocus. We read of different things other countries do to improve their health system, let’s replicate same here.