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Times Are Very Tough – Former Aviation Minister

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Former minister of aviation and ex-corps marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps, Osita Chidoka, has voiced serious concerns over the exorbitant costs of healthcare services in Nigeria.

In a post on X.com, Chidoka highlighted the drastic increase in prices for routine medical check-ups, drawing attention to the financial strain it places on ordinary Nigerians.

Chidoka, who has been a long-time patron of a medical laboratory for 16 years, disclosed that the price for his annual medical tests had risen sharply.

He said, “Times are tough. Very tough. I went for my annual checks at my regular lab.

“I have been a customer for 16 years, and all my result folders from each year are still intact and form the basis for comparison.

“This year, I paid 406,395 to run all the tests. This was about double the 2022 price and about 30% more than 2023. Disturbing.”

Delving into the economic implications, Chidoka emphasised the impact of currency depreciation on healthcare costs.

He said, “In 2021, the price was about 235,000 Naira, equivalent to $559 at an exchange rate of 420 Naira to the dollar.

“Today, at 406,395 Naira and an exchange rate of 1,500 Naira to the dollar, it is only $270,” he noted, illustrating how costs have escalated in Naira terms despite a reduction in dollar value.

Drawing comparisons over the years, Chidoka pointed out the stark contrast in affordability for professionals like university professors.

“In Naira term, a university professor averaged about 450k a month since 2009. At that time, it was roughly $3k, and today, it is $300,” he added.

“In 2009, he would need about 10% of his monthly salary for an annual check, and in 2021, the professor would use about 50% of his monthly salary to pay for an annual check-up.

“Today, he would have to use 100% of his monthly income to

pay for an annual comprehensive check. The hospital with imported equipment and reagents needs revenues that track dollars while the customers’ income steadily declines in dollar terms.

“So hospitals can not raise prices to track currency depreciation, and customers can not keep pace with price increases. Conundrum. Something suffers. Aging equipment can’t be replaced, or people don’t bother with hospital visits except in emergencies. Either way, something gives.”

Chidoka further highlighted the dilemma faced by healthcare providers who rely on imported equipment and reagents.

Chidoka called for innovative solutions and a strategic reevaluation of investments in Nigeria’s health sector.

He added, “We need new thinking, a new approach, and a rethinking of financing and investment in the health sector,” he urged, emphasizing the urgent need for comprehensive reforms to address the escalating healthcare crisis.

The former minister’s remarks come amidst growing concerns over the affordability and accessibility of healthcare services in Nigeria, sparking discussions on policy interventions and economic strategies to mitigate the impact on ordinary citizens.

In April, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Uche Ojinmah, had sounded the alarm on the escalating costs of healthcare in Nigeria, emphasising that it is plunging many Nigerians further into poverty.

Speaking at a webinar organized by TheCable to mark its 10th anniversary, Dr. Ojinmah underscored the profound impact of high healthcare expenditures on the nation’s socio-economic landscape.

Highlighting the crucial role of the health sector in economic productivity, Dr. Ojinmah stated, “When people are sick, their productivity decreases. Nigerians are going deeper into poverty as a result of purchasing healthcare.

“Nigeria should develop a health sector development bank to support the local pharmaceutical industry,” he suggested, aiming to bridge the gap and ensure affordability of essential medical supplies.

“It is the position of the NMA that we should move from planning to rolling out policies.”

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