Pharmacists urge govt to reconfigure health system to halt emigration

Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has urged the Federal Government to reconfigure the health architecture in the country so as to halt emigration of pharmacists from Nigeria.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos heralding the 95th annual conference of the PSN, president of the society, Cyril Odianose Usifoh disclosed that about 5, 208 pharmacists have left the country in the last five years in search of the proverbial greener pastures, especially in Canada, UK and the United States.

Usifoh also said that PSN has confirmed that 803 pharmacists collected letters of good standing from the Council in 2021.

“The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended ratio of healthcare workers to the population is 23 to 1000 while in Nigeria, it is an abysmal 1.95 to 1000. This is for the entire health workforce. When expressed in terms of the pharmacists’ component, there are 0.07 pharmacists to 1000 or 1 pharmacist to over 14,000 Nigerians.

“As a professional body, there is only so much we can do to make the practice attractive enough to retain these young professionals who will carry on our dreams and aspirations of better healthcare delivery to Nigerians. The onus lies on the government to reconfigure the health architecture in the country in a bid to keep hold of the manpower we are losing in droves,” he said.

Highlighting some of the causes of brain drain, he said they include poor healthcare funding with the gap standing at close to USD 200 billion. This is responsible for the infrastructural deficit and pitiable working conditions of many healthcare workers; distribution of health workforce with more patronage of tertiary compared to primary health institutions, causing personnel at the tertiary institutions to be overworked.

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“Over 60 percent of their clientele is composed of people with minor issues the primary level could have solved. Consequently, those who actually need tertiary care are delayed with many dying or suffering irreversible damage before it gets to their turn to access care,” he further said.

Maintaining that Nigeria currently contributes a great number of healthcare workers to the UK, Canada, Saudi Arabia and other high-income countries, he said: “This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a curse since it worsens our health system’s fragility and jeopardises the ability of the national and sub-national entities to meet the health needs of their population. It can be a blessing if we harness these global needs, positioning the education institutions to produce more than our projected needs locally and exporting these skills in exchange for commitments from the high income countries to invest in the training of healthcare workers locally,’’ he said.

He however, commended President Buhari for assisting in the signing of the Pharmacy Bill into an Act, describing it as a significant event as the Act would set the stage for a rebirth of the pharmacy profession in tune with current realities.

On the conference which will come under the theme: ‘Medicine security in an unstable economy’, he said it would take place between the 31st October and 4th of November, 2022 in Jos, Plateau State.

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