Covid-19 experience shows why govt must invest more in public health – Unions


By Michael Oche
Health sector workers in West Africa have said one of the major lessons learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic is the need for governments in the sub-region to invest more in the public healthcare services.
The unions under the umbrella of West Africa Health Workers Sector Unions Network (WAHSUN) said the pandemic  exposed the vulnerabilities in the heath system within the African continent.
They therefore said as the world gradually moves towards a post-covid era, there is an urgent need for west African governments to invest more in the health sector, especially investment in technology, research and personnel in the sector.
WAHSUN Chairperson, Comrade Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo while speaking during the opening ceremony of a two days conference in Abuja, lamented that most governments in the sub-region have not been able to allocate enough funds for the health sector.
She said poor funding of the health sector has left public health facilities in poor shape and unable to meet any future disease outbreak.
Comrade Ofori-Ampofo said many frontline workers were lost to the Covid-19 pandemic because of the  lack adequate Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to protect them from getting infected.
She said, “We lost many of our comrades on the frontline. This is because at the beginning of the pandemic, we didn’t have the necessary resources and the systems in place to protect us. We were grappling with non availability of PPEs. Simple masks were not available. And it made it difficult for you not to get affected. And many of our colleagues got infected.
“If you look at the dynamics of the sub regions, most governments have not been able to allocate enough funds for the health sector. And that is why we don’t have strong public health systems. And if we have strong public health systems, we cannot provide qualify health services, and if we don’t have qualify health services,  what is going to happen is that if there’s another pandemic like the Covid-19, we will be in trouble because we can’t take the shocks.”
According to her, the two-day workshop will also help unions come out strategies that can influence policies within all countries in the sub region especially the call for more investment in health.
The WAHSUN Chairperson said the best way the government can appreciate the sacrifices of the health workers is to invest heavily in healthcare so that they can have better environment to practice because the current conditions of service is not good.
In his address, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), argued that quality health service is a fundamental human rights and African leaders must invest in quality healthcare.
He said, “looking into the future, the experience is very clear. One is that Africa must develop capacity to also develop its own vaccines. We have all it takes. We have the resources. We cannot continue to rely on donations because you can see the imbalance even in the distribution of the vaccines. In many countries, is the one that is about to expire that was sent to Africa and basically, we couldn’t use it. 
Comrade Sani Baba, the PSI regional secretary for Africa and Arab countries, said it appears that most governments in the West sub-region lack ideas on post Covid-19 economic recovery plans.
According to him, many of African leaders have taken loans and are now considering selling public utilities such as health services and water supply to raise funds to service those loans. 
The theme of the workshop is “the Covid-19 pandemic: lessons for the future”