- A shameful picture of dysfunction
In October, the First Lady chastised the management of Aso Rock Clinic for not having syringes and other basic medical equipment and medications for even emergency treatment at the clinic. In response, the House of Representatives quickly resolved to investigate the “deplorable condition” of the clinic and its failure to deliver services for which it was being funded.
But the National Assembly (NASS) turns out to have been worrying about the mote in the eye of others while ignoring the beam in its own eye: gross lack of basic medical supplies at the NASS Clinic that even induces rationing of medical treatment.
A clinic that is to provide health care for over 500 lawmakers and many more legislative aides and workers is depicted by insiders as not having enough doctors, basic equipment, and basic medications, apart from paracetamol. The situation is bad enough that medical supplies are rationed and staffers needing treatment are turned back, unless they are known to have irresistible men and women of power behind them. Even those who get treated are directed to buy their medications outside the clinic.
The light-mindedness towards efficient health care in NASS Clinic seems to reflect similar attitudes of leaders to health care in general: Aso Rock Clinic runs largely on paracetamol; the National Assembly clinic is worse; most government hospitals in the country lack the equipment and supplies needed to treat patients; and primary health centres hardly function in most of the country’s 774 local governments.
It is ironical that the National Assembly, already famous or notorious for being the most highly remunerated in the world, is nonchalant about the health of lawmakers and their staff. But the speed with which lawmakers and even members of the executive resort to medical tourism suggests rising institutional cynicism about the local health industry. There is no other way to explain why lawmakers who do so much to protect outlandish benefits for themselves would readily lose interest in maintaining the clinic that protects their health.
We consider the situation of the NASS Clinic, like that of Aso Rock about which the First Lady raised the alarm barely three months ago, an evidence of sheer irresponsibility and a flagrant waste of the nation’s resources poured into providing such important public service. It is shameful that the two special clinics created to manage the health of government leaders are unable to provide the service for which they have been created.
Similar clinics are available in other countries to take care of the health needs of government leaders and as a service strategic to national security. For example, the Office of the Attending Physician, United States’ counterpart of NASS Clinic, has a full complement of staff and adequate facilities to attend to staff of the Congress and the judiciary, as well as to visitors and tourists to Congress in case of emergency.
If the government is not capable of running one special clinic properly, why should it have two separate clinics in the same vicinity? The principle of separation of powers does not require that the executive, legislature, and the judiciary in the same city run separate clinics. Having one well-staffed and equipped clinic to serve staff of the three branches of government in Abuja is more cost-effective than unnecessary duplication that produces nothing but inefficiency and inertia.
Believing that the combined staff of the presidency, legislature, and the judiciary cannot be more than the population of an average local government, we call for proper rationalising or streamlining of health care for the presidency, legislature, and the judiciary. There seems to be no better time to do this than now when the economy is under severe stress.