Miracle Akubuo

The neglect of Nigeria’s health sector is an issue that demands immediate attention. It is evident that the sector does not receive the level of importance it deserves, despite the widely recognized saying “HEALTH IS WEALTH.”

The stability and well-being of a country’s health sector are crucial and should be treated as a priority. Unfortunately, our hospitals are falling behind, burdened with numerous excuses that need to be addressed seriously. Both the primary and secondary sectors of our health system have reached a point where they can no longer be boasted about.

While government hospitals are referred to as “GOVERNMENT OWNED,” they often fail to live up to the expectation of being “GOVERNMENT RESPONSIBLE.” It is high time we took active responsibility for this sector, as without good health, true wealth cannot be achieved. The question is, why is our health sector deteriorating?

According to the latest report from the Nursing and Midwives practice in the UK, which presents data on the number of professionals registered with the NMC from April 1, 2020, to March 2023, the emigration of health workers from Nigeria has reached concerning levels. This is a direct consequence of the government’s lack of interest in this sector, resulting in a shortage of staff and putting citizens’ lives at risk.

Blaming the personnel for seeking opportunities elsewhere would be unjust. They migrate to countries where they are valued and can find fulfillment in their work. 

Data reveals that Nigeria has the third-highest number of foreign nurses and midwives in the UK. Furthermore, the rate of nurse migration has been consistently increasing since 2018, with 2,796 in 2018, 3,021 in 2019, 3,684 in 2020, 4,301 in 2021, 7,256 in 2022, and a staggering 10,639 in 2023.

This upward trend in emigration will continue unless concrete measures are taken. When a significant number of nurses leave the country, we are left with an insufficient workforce. How can we effectively manage a state of emergency? It is well-known that Nigeria’s population is rapidly growing, accompanied by an increased birth rate. A growing population combined with a decreasing number of healthcare personnel will inevitably lead to unfavorable outcomes. Emigration stands as one of the primary issues plaguing our health sector.

Another critical concern is the lack of proper equipment in the health sector, hindering the effective delivery of healthcare services. It is embarrassing that government officials seldom seek medical treatment within the country, except during election campaigns, when they temporarily showcase limited healthcare activities. This behavior reflects poorly on our government. To rectify this, a significant portion of the national budget must be allocated to the health sector to address personnel needs. By doing so, our health sector will become more attractive to other nations.

Although we have well-trained doctors and nurses, we are gradually losing them due to the government’s negligence in policy formulation and implementation.

Creating a conducive working environment is also a pressing issue. Many government clinics and hospitals suffer from poor maintenance, making it challenging for healthcare workers to fulfill their duties effectively.

To combat the emigration issue, the government must increase the salaries of healthcare workers in the sector. These dedicated professionals not only perform their jobs but also put their lives at risk, especially during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, where many nurses have tragically lost their lives while saving others. Recognizing the risks involved in their work, healthcare workers deserve higher remuneration compared to other sectors. Implementing increased wages will not only improve their job satisfaction but also attract more personnel to work within the country’s healthcare system, leading to more positive outcomes.

Furthermore, it is crucial to create a favorable working environment. Starting with the infrastructure, many government hospital buildings are in deplorable conditions, rendering them unfit to be called hospitals or medical facilities. Some have even been abandoned. The government should prioritize renovating these structures, ensuring they provide a conducive and suitable atmosphere for healthcare professionals to deliver quality care.

Additionally, adequate and up-to-date equipment is essential. Possessing knowledge and skills alone is insufficient; our healthcare facilities require modern and appropriate equipment. Unfortunately, much of the equipment currently in use is outdated and fails to meet the required standards. Therefore, the government must not only provide necessary equipment but also ensure its continuous maintenance and updates. By doing so, government officials will be encouraged to utilize domestic hospitals for their medical needs, reducing unnecessary expenses incurred through international medical travel.

In fact, it would be commendable if the newly elected president takes a stand and prohibits officials from seeking medical treatment abroad. This measure would not only contribute to improving the accreditation and reputation of our health sector but also demonstrate the government’s commitment to prioritizing and investing in the country’s healthcare system.

Moreso, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, the deputy governor of Lagos State, suggests that one effective solution to address the deficit caused by the rising challenges is to expand the capacity for training medical practitioners. He proposes a significant increase in the annual number of doctors trained, from the current 5,000 to 15,000. Such an expansion would greatly benefit the country. However, achieving this goal requires an adequately funded and standardized educational system.

It is imperative for the newly elected president to prioritize and address these issues promptly to prevent further damage to the health sector. As the saying goes, “HEALTH IS WEALTH,” and neglecting the healthcare system not only jeopardizes the well-being of citizens but also hinders the overall progress and development of the nation. By investing in the health sector, providing fair compensation, maintaining proper infrastructure, and ensuring access to modern equipment, Nigeria can build a robust and efficient healthcare system that meets the needs of its growing population and retains its valuable medical professionals.

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