President Muhammadu Buhari recently declared his administration’s intention to invest in programmes that would improve the capacity of all cadres of health workers to be able to provide quality healthcare services in the country. The President also assured that the Federal Government would review all previous agreements as a result of the welfare agitation by different groups of health workers and take reasonable decisions that would not impinge on the right of workers.
Speaking in Sokoto during the National Annual General Conference and Delegates Meeting of the Nigeria Medical Association, the umbrella body of Nigerian doctors, he also decried the incessant intra-professional crisis in the health sector. We wholeheartedly support Mr. President’s intentions because they are capable of lifting the spirit of health workers to put in their best in their jobs if implemented. More so, enhancement of the capacity of Nigerian health workers to deliver on their jobs is critical in order to equip them adequately to cope with the demands of current dynamics in healthcare delivery.
We believe that properly trained workforce is imperative in addition to availability of modern equipments to mitigate incidences of wrong diagnoses – that has become a sore point in the quality of healthcare delivery in institutions across the country. This has led to the frequent trips abroad by Nigerians for the treatment of common ailments.
It is also in order for the Federal Government to indicate its readiness to review welfare agitation of health workers because this is one of the major reasons for which they had hinged grievances for embarking on endless strikes in the past. It would be recalled that, an unprecedented number of trained health professionals are migrating to other countries in alarming proportions again, over welfare related reasons among others. And for a country with as high health personnel deficit as Nigeria, these lofty intentions of government are commendable.
In fact, as Prof. Folashade Ogunsola, Chairman, Association of Colleges of Medicine of Nigeria, noted recently at a workshop, it will take Nigeria 100 years to have the number of doctors it needs if the number of doctors trained yearly do not leave the country.
Available statistics also show that currently Nigeria has only 35, 000 resident doctors to attend to a population of 170 million whereas the country would need about 237, 000 doctors to effectively meet the WHO benchmark of one doctor to 600 people.
Therefore, taking into account this scenario in the health sector, we consider the Federal Government’s recent pronouncement as timely and a major step capable of remedying the obsession of trained Nigerian health professionals to depart the country as soon as they graduate from medical school. Buhari’s pledges, the way we see them, if implemented are also capable of reinvigorating renewed confidence in the sector in such a way that health workers would begin to feel a sense of belonging in the health system.
Again, the disposition of the current Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole to pursue an agenda that places the health of the citizenry ahead of healthcare workers as he expressed in his inaugural address is strategic if the intra and inter rivalry crisis among workers in the sector is to be addressed on permanent basis.
We say so because Nigeria cannot afford the cost of frequent strike actions in the health sector. It is an essential services sector that is very strategic in building economic growth and development of any nation for ‘a healthy nation as it is often said is a wealthy nation. Therefore, the jostling for who becomes the head of the medical team and such sundry sentiments that pitched doctors against other health professionals in the past should be jettisoned urgently.
The leadership of NMA, PSN, and other professional groups in the health sector must leave above board and discharge their duties in their respective offices as statesmen and patriotic ambassadors whose utterances and actions must not be guided by parochial sentiments, but rather the larger national interest. It must be emphasised however, that no single profession can effectively and efficiently function without others. Therefore, we recommend a new culture that places premium on the welfare and safety of the patient to form the integral part of the daily routine of all cadres of health workers in Nigeria.