By Aderogba George
Nigeria’s health sector is facing a myriad of challenges including outbound medical tourism, deteriorating infrastructure, low budgetary allocation, poor remuneration.
A combination of these factors has birthed one of the greatest headaches in the sector, exodus of healthcare professionals particularly doctors and nurses.
Nigeria has a doctor-to-population ratio of one doctor to 8,000 population, a far cry from one doctor to 600 people as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
A media report quoted the president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Uche Ojinmah, as saying that in the last eight years over 5,600 Nigerian doctor migrated to UK alone.
The exodus is even worse among nurses.
No fewer than 75,000 nurses and midwives have reportedly left the country in the last five year, according to Mr Micheal Nnachi, the president of National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives.
The implication of this is that Nigeria which is already experiencing manpower deficit in the health sector is fast losing the available ones. This is not a good omen for citizens health and well being after all a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.
The Federal Government Federal has responded with increase budgeting, allocating N1.17 trillion to the sector representing 5.75 per cent of the N20.5 trillion 2023 budget, the highest budget ever for health.
The 2023 budget is a remarkable leap from the N826.9 billion the sector got in 2022 and the N547 billion allocated to it in 2021.
President Bola Tinubu’s 2024 budget proposal before the National Assembly out of the N27.5 trillion proposed budget, N1.33trilion will go to health sector. As in the previous budget, it represents roughly five per cent of the budget.
However, this still falls short of African leaders Abuja Declaration that 15 per cent of every African country’s annual budget should go to the health sector.
Stakeholders however say that budgetary allocation alone cannot drastically reduce the migration, arguing that a conducive working environment will make a huge impact in that regard.
“Equipment to work and adequate sector funding are crucial’’, said Ojinmah.
Ojinmah said the right working environment and remuneration bring job satisfaction, adding that every doctor’s joy was to see the patient successfully treated.
“Currently, Nigeria has about 30, 000 doctors to take care of over 200, 000 Nigerians, and this is a serious issue that needed quick attention from those at the authority.
“We need to do something quickly to stop this madness. We have pointed out four things that, if they are reversed, the Japa too will be reversed.
“The things are to pay good remuneration because the doctor’s salary here is meager, pay attention to security issues, and stop the insecurity going on in some parts of the country“, he said.
Dr Grace Otokpa, Chairman, Medical and Dental Council, University of Abuja Teaching Hospital branch, said the exodus of doctors, nurses, and other health workers from Nigeria was taking a serious toll on the health sector.
According to her, some hospitals have shut down some wards because of dearth of doctors.
She canvassed a `stronger political will in terms of making policies that are human-friendly.
Dr Ogbonna Obinna, President of Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals called on the government at national and sub-national levels in Nigeria to urgently address matters affecting the welfare, morale and well-being of health workers.
While the call for addressing the drift continues, the Federal Government said it was working out a comprehensive solution to health sector challenges.
Nurses urge adequate investment in manpower and infrastructure to transform Nigeria’s health sector.
Mr Toba Odumosu, secretary, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos Zone, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recently that adequate infrastructure and enhance welfare package will mitigate the challenges.
“We need to improve the funding of PHCs so that they can deliver preventive and quality healthcare to citizens. The minister has a wealth of experience in PHC system; so, he is familiar with the terrain,” he said.
“What we expect are policies that should encourage people to stay back.
“One of the major concerns to nurses is working in a system that doesn’t support one to practise to the full extent of one’s professional qualification and training“, he said.
The federal government said it working on a more comprehensive approach to tackling the challenges facing the sector rather than treat isolated symptoms.
The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, said Tinubu administration was putting together a marshal plan to `put everything in order’.
“From the way Mr. President is going, it is for the betterment of the sector beyond the shore of the country that we have to improve, not only in business but even in bringing in investors into the country“, he said.
The minister said that recently, there was a signing of a bilateral agreement with subnational stakeholders, signifying that the Federal Government’s readiness to partner with all stakeholders to fix the sector,
As the curtain falls on 2023 and Nigerians welcome 2024, they expect the government to match words with action and improve the nation’s health sector. This, certainly, will discourage brain drain in the sector.
News Agency of Nigeria.