• Saturday, June 22, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria losing experienced health professionals – Minister laments

Osagie Ehanire

Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s minister of health has lamented that the health care sector is suffering due to the exodus of most knowledgeable and highly trained doctors, nurses and pharmacists from the country.

Ehanire raised this concern at the 17th edition of the President Muhammadu Buhari scorecard in the health sector, organised by the federal ministry of information and culture, Tuesday in Abuja. He, however, admitted that the government could not stop the exodus of the health professionals but was trying to remedy it by speeding up the training of young practitioners.

The minister said that a new mechanism was being set up to engage Nigerian doctors, nurses and pharmacists in diaspora and connect them with universities and hospitals in Nigeria to transfer knowledge.

“Workforce mobility is global; doctors and nurses are moving everywhere, so we should not just knock ourselves. Where we suffer is that the highly trained ones are the ones who leave, those who have the experience, who have acquired most of the knowledge and confidence in healthcare management, that’s where we suffer and it takes time to train new people to take their place,” Ehanire said.

The minister added that the government was also doing everything possible to improve the remuneration and conditions of service for health practitioners.

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“We are looking to introduce a better form of performance based remuneration so that doctors will receive according to the work they do. A lot of doctors and nurses don’t feel that they are properly rewarded.”

He said Nigeria still had a significant number of unemployed doctors, explaining that some institutions prefer to engage nurses or community health workers because they are cheaper than doctors.

According to him, “Nigeria is producing about 3,000 doctors every year from our universities, about 800 return from overseas, and about 1,000 are going out. So, in reality, there is a net balance of doctors, but the employment rate is not commensurate.”

The minister further admitted that Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the country were not functional despite the fact that at least one PHC per ward gets direct funding through the Decentralised Facility approach. This, he said, was exacerbating health burdens in the country such as maternal mortality, mother to child transmission of HIV because mothers were missing out on Antenatal Care Services, among others.

Speaking on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari since 2015, Ehanire said the successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the biggest achievements in the health sector, during which the country strengthened public health security.

He also said that the new National Health Insurance Law signed by the president would boost access to healthcare, provide insurance coverage for over 100 million Nigerians and reduce out of pocket payment from 72 percent to 40 percent.