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Highway Accidental Deaths and Emergency Medical Services
http://www.nigeriansinamerica.com/articles/4618/1/Highway-Accidental-Deaths-and-Emergency-Medical-Services/Page1.html
Bolaji Aregbeshola
Bolaji Aregbesola contributes from Nigeria. 
By Bolaji Aregbeshola
Published on 11/25/2010
 
Issues of accidental deaths in Nigeria has for a long time been left unattended to by governments. We read, watch and hear about series of ghastly accidents in the media on a daily basis but to my knowledge, little has been done to improve emergency medical services...

Issues of accidental deaths in Nigeria has for a long time been left unattended to by governments. We read, watch and hear about series of ghastly accidents in the media on a daily basis but to my knowledge, little has been done to improve emergency medical services and this is one area that both the executive and the legislature need to urgently work on. At least if government cannot provide affordable healthcare, it should be able to provide emergency medical services for accident victims as well as preventable treatments that has gone worse. Statistics available on accidental deaths and disability of Nigerians across the federation is worrisome. The increase in number of accidental deaths in Nigeria show that we do not value life and this is heartbreaking.

Recently, it was reported that key officers of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) and their aides died in a road accident in Abuja. Several people have also lost their lives in this circumstance and no holistic approach has been taken by governments to stem this tide which is fast contributing to the number of deaths in a country that is striving to reduce deaths arising from the numerous diseases plaguing it. This union comprises of members who are at most risk of road traffic accidents and it is a pity that many of its members have fallen victim of the inefficient emergency services in Nigeria. But there is still hope for those who are living. Governments can begin to take a look at the emergency medical services system with a view to providing on the spot medical treatment for those who urgently need it and during transportation by ambulances. This is obviously the way to go in improving emergency medical care.

The Federal Executive Council sometime made approval for the purchase of ambulances to be distributed to the 36 states of the federation including the FCT but there are no concrete laws supporting emergency medical services. There is a need to pass a law that will provide public access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay. The importance of sending and/or sponsoring such a government funded emergency service bill cannot be overemphasized as it will help save the lives of accident victims and patients in general. There is also the issue of responsiveness and effectiveness of the existing emergency service personnel, ambulances and agencies to rescue victims. Though the effort of some state governors at providing ambulance services must be commended. In contrast, some states do not provide such services and even when they do, the ambulance services provide transport to the point of care rather than treatment of the patient. Indeed, leaders of government need to work concertedly especially with the increasing wave of road traffic accidents, deaths and disability across the country. The yearly death toll on account of road accidents is enough for government to improve emergency care in general and have emergency ambulances that is part of the national health system.

It is a widespread belief that government do not care about the security and welfare of its citizens. But government must act accordingly to prove the people wrong by pursuing a health policy that stands on the tripod of emergency medical services, free preventive care and a reviewed health insurance. This is an option to be considered if government at all levels cannot afford to provide universal health coverage for all its citizens. A health policy that is based on these three tripods will no doubt help reduce the number of unnecessary and preventable deaths in the country. Increase in allocation to health by both the federal and state governments is also critical to solving the problem of the health sector.

The high incidence of accidental deaths shows that government is yet to find a lasting solution to the problem. Leaders of government have also fallen victims because they fail to realize that both the rich and the poor will suffer the consequence of their action or inaction towards the issue of governance in our country. And that is why people in government should work in the interest and for the overall wellbeing of the citizens. If only Nigerian leaders would realize that the provision of security, welfare and the basic amenities of life will benefit not only the governed but also those who are involved in decision-making and policy formulation. The manpower of Nigeria is being lost to road accidents on a daily basis because we do not cherish the precious gift of life.

Nigerian governments care less about the lives of its citizens which the government of United States and some other countries will do everything humanly possible to save because they value it. The recent rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners who were underground for about 69 days speaks volume about a government’s commitment to saving the lives of its people. But the opposite is the case in Nigeria where the lives of citizens of the country does not mean anything to the leaders of government.

It is disheartening to know that many citizens will still fall victim of the poor emergency service system in Nigeria as the year come to an end and especially as people travel from one state to another for the Christmas and New Year celebrations. However, the incidence of accidental deaths and disability can be reduced if government alongside relevant agencies and authorities redouble their efforts at ensuring that roads are safe during this period. In addition, existing ambulance services should be made effective and efficient as an improved emergency system is being awaited. Government at all levels needs to show a commitment to securing and protecting the lives of the people who are in their care by virtue of the mandate given to them. There is no gainsaying that the leaders of government are responsible for the people and the nation as a whole. This is a mindset Nigerian leaders must have if the nation must be pulled out of the doldrums as politicking, dishonesty, insincerity and insensitivity have done more harm than good to the growth and development of the so-called giant of Africa. It is high time leaders of government change their ways as all these behaviors have not benefited the citizens and the country. Now that Nigerian leaders have renewed their commitment towards ensuring that Nigeria becomes a better nation in the next 50 years, they must begin to lay the foundation fortwith and without any delay. This new commitment couple with honesty and sincerity on the part of the leaders will no doubt produce a Nigeria of our dreams where every citizen will be proud to live.

The challenges of a developing nation like Nigeria are quite serious but we have the capacity to surmount all the problems facing us and if only we are committed. Nigeria is blessed with both human and natural resources but we have not fully harness these rare gifts to better the nation and its people. Countries that are not as blessed as Nigeria have been able to better the lot of their citizens through people-oriented policies and programs. As the level of poverty continues to increase and majority of the citizens find it difficult to afford medical treatment, it would only be thoughtful of government at all levels if they can work towards the reform of healthcare. The current health policy across the federation does not make healthcare accessible and affordable for the poor most of who are left at the mercy of an unfair, disjointed, inefficient and less effective health system in Nigeria. It is only the pursuance, adoption and implementation of a health policy that is based on universal coverage, emergency medical services, national health insurance, free preventive care as well as increased funding for the health sector that can guarantee a reduction in the number of unnecessary deaths and increased life expectancy. This will definitely benefit the ruled and the ruler, the rich and the poor, the lower class and the higher class etc.

Not many healthcare professionals would argue against the improvement of our emergency care in general as well as the inclusion of emergency medical services in the nation’s healthcare policy as the rate of accidental deaths in Nigeria is quite alarming. Besides we might continue to lose precious lives if governments do not treat as a matter of urgency the issues of emergency medical services in Nigeria. The review of the existing emergency services is very important because anyone could fall victim regardless of their status or position. When our highways are not safe, everyone becomes susceptible.