Nurses on Monday urged Muhammad Pate, the newly inaugurated co-ordinating minister of health and social welfare, to ensure adequate investment in manpower and infrastructure to transform Nigeria’s health sector.
Toba Odumosu, secretary, the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos Zone, made the appeal on Monday in Lagos.
Odumosu also urged the minister to ensure that budgetary allocation to the health sector aligned with the 15 percent Abuja Declaration pact.
Recall that Heads of State of African Union countries met in April 2001 in Abuja and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 percent of their countries’ annual budgets to improve the health sector.
According to Odumosu, the health sector has been grossly underfunded for years, leading to emigration of healthcare workers.
He said that Nigeria’s current system did not support the professional development of nurses and midwives.
He, therefore, urged the minister to ensure that adequate manpower development and robust reward measures were put in place to discourage brain-brain in the health sector.
He also urged the minister to remove disparities in the salary structures of healthcare workers to give a sense of belonging, fulfilment and inclusion to all of them.
Odumosu said that disparities in salaries had led to a series of strikes by NANNM and Joint Health Sector Unions, noting that while adjustment was made for medical doctors, salary structures of other health professionals had yet to be adjusted.
He said that there was a need for a radical approach to Nigeria’s primary healthcare system development, noting that there were many non-functional Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across Nigeria.
According to him, the non-functional PHCs were putting a strain on secondary and tertiary healthcare.
“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.
Reacting to the plan of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria to develop a migration policy to curtail brain drain in the health sector, 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.
“Imagine an instance that the federal ministry of health had to issue a circular before midwives were allowed to take child delivery in tertiary hospitals in the country.
“If you seal up the ceiling of legitimate aspirations, how do you expect people to stay or thrive there?” he asked.
According to him, the policies should show that nurses are valued, recognised and appreciated.
Odumosu appealed to the Federal Government to ensure the inclusivity of various health professionals in its cabinet and boards of health ministries, departments and agencies.
“The last time we had a nurse as a minister of health was when Sulaiman Bello was there during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
“Nurses want to participate in leadership, they want to be members of boards, have a sense of belonging and inclusion in the healthcare service delivery system,” he said.