• Monday, May 27, 2024
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FG to develop policy to manage health workers’ migration

Health workers

The federal government has begun to develop a national policy to stem the mass migration of healthcare workers from Nigeria.

Nwakaego Chukwuodinaka, deputy director of the Department of Health System and Planning at the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare disclosed that the initiative has been presented to the Federal Executive Council on Monday, according to the International Centre for Investigative Reports.

Chukwuodinaka spoke during a policy dialogue on health workers’ migration in Africa, convened by the African Health Observatory Platform (AHOP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

“What we are requesting is to have a managed migration and to be able to implement that policy. We need a nod from the FEC. One of the key components of the Health Workforce Policy is to incentivise those that are on ground working, especially those in the rural and underserved areas. It also seeks to sign a pact with the destination countries,” she said.

“The pact is for us to equally gain from them poaching our health workers in the area of bringing technology for us, infrastructure and exchange programmes to help those we are training in-country.”
She, however, said the new policy will support those trying to return home from the diaspora, including how they could be absorbed into the system.
Increasing migration of healthcare workers, especially early-career doctors and nurses has been crippling the Nigerian healthcare system, leaving many hospitals operating with a lean workforce.

Just about 45 per cent of registered doctors in Nigeria renewed their licence in 2023.

As of March 2024, approximately 300,000 health professionals, including doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists were in active service.

Despite the size, only 55,000 licensed medical doctors out of the 90,000 registered doctors remain in Nigeria to cater to a population nearing 220 million.

The exodus of healthcare professionals worsens the workload for those who stay behind, resulting in a doctor-to-patient ratio of 2.5 per 10,000 individuals nationwide.

In regions like Lagos with a higher concentration of doctors, the ratio slightly improves to 3.17 doctors per 10,000 people based on a population estimate of 24 million by the Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency (HEFAMAA).

Comparing these figures to World Health Organization recommendations of one doctor for every 500 patients and one nurse for every 400 patients reveals significant shortfalls.

Data from the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives indicates that currently only one nurse is available for every 1,660 Nigerians.

Muhammad Ali Pate, minister of Health and Social Welfare, in a televised interview, said the critical shortage and imbalance in the healthcare workforce composition, emphasising the need for a robust approach to address the challenge.

“The issue overall in terms of health professionals is that they are insufficient. There is imbalance in terms of the skills mix and there are huge misdistribution issues,” Pate said, during a televised interview.

“We have been losing many doctors that have been trained here. We have to look at it holistically, not only from the angle of doctors but other cadres that are important in the delivery of healthcare.”