Coronavirus: we need to rethink the health financing & invite absentee state to come back and reclaim it

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Opinion

By Henry K. Otafiire

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The Corona virus Pandemic point to the crisis that is symptomatic of our broken health system brought by a false belief that markets deliver public goods.
If this whole COVID 19 pandemic has achieved anything at all, then it is to draw a little fleeting, belated attention to the abject state of health systems in this country.



What was going to happen when a pandemic of a big magnitude like Corona virus finally hit home? That was the question those in charge of our health didn’t anticipate and never quite managed to answer.
It has confirmed our curious and self-defeating taste for knee jerk reactions, our aloofness and blindness to long term planning in favour of fire brigade solutions in times of crisis like these.
I must state that, at this stage, that there is no real prestige in under rating the role of our miniscule and thin teams of health practitioners on the frontline of the pandemic have so far achieved in responding to it.



This is really beyond our deeply charged partisan politics and our obsession with politicizing disasters in the blisteringly ruthless times like these. And it’s hard not to feel in some sense that the teetering and subsequently vulnerability over the Corona Pandemic is emblematic of health system broken from top to bottom.
We’re not just talking about government’s peanut investment into health here, but that of the critical sectors as a whole: achieving public services in a regime where the market’s major motivation is making a profit and how that has serious ramifications to a society and its citizens.



How did we reach a point where those in upper echelons of public service are being covered by king-sized budgets to seek medical care abroad rather than invest in our local health care systems while average citizens are languishing in death traps disguised as healthy centers whose existence is scarcely fit for purpose?
It happened when we became intensely relaxed about government officials hoovering up public palastals while squirrelling away their fortunes in offshore bank accounts. It happened when we stopped seeing health as something that forms the bedrock of a functioning country, but as something you charge people for profit.



It happened when we embraced the structural adjustment programs and it’s attend huge government cuts carried our government in the wake of bretton woods institutions’ highly touted and purported progressive policies believed to deliver our shit hole countries from the economic limbo that defined 1980s.
It happened when we torelated policies whose legacy has had a perennial traumatic effect on what used to be public goods delivered and subsidized by the government.
It happened when politicians who came trumpeting Marxist slogans were convinced overnight that wealth at the top would ultimately enrich us all, that the only way of ensuring the provision of vital public services like health was to privatise, sell, trim the public sector down until it had nothing more to offer.



And so to blast Dr Aceng, all this on our health ministry officials, or criticize ordinary citizens for taking weak responsive and precautionary measures , rather misses the point. They aren’t the cause, just some of its many, many symptoms.
Of course, there are things we could try in the meantime.
Wash and regularly sanitize our hands, Self-quarantine and avoid sneezing in public.
In short, then, there are no real quick fixes here, regardless of anything you may be told by self-styled Corona experts, well-meaning columnists or Professors with strange moustaches.



If we want to fix our health systems, we need to fix the ideological model of capitalism, which means we need to rethink the health financing and invite absentee state to come back and reclaim it.
We need a shift in the ideology, in the role of government and shift in the culture of our entire political class, and the idea that health is a public good that should be free for all, rather than a private enterprise to be exploited.



In short, we need to sweep away virtually the entire intellectual basis of our capitalist society, which – to put it mildly – is no picnic. With no where to run in the face of unfolding tragedy like this, perhaps a radical overhaul of the system is a proposal worth reconsidering.

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