Following the noticeable shortage of healthcare workers across Nigerian public hospitals and the bureaucratic processes impeding the recruitment of workers, the Nigerian government has authorised the Federal Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to approve recruitment requests by qualifying health institutions.
This decision was taken at the Federal Executive Council (FEC), which the Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Ali Pate, said will accelerate the hiring of healthcare workers and reduce delays.
Speaking at the FEC meeting Wednesday, Mr Pate explained that “the replacement of health workers that leave often takes a very long time because the waiver process takes several stages,” Vanguard Newspaper reports.
He added that President Bola Tinubu directed the council that the approvals of those waivers be delegated to the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare so that it doesn’t have to go through the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation.
“That will hasten the recruitment of health workers in terms of those who are out there unemployed, within limits of their fiscal resources,” he said.
In the wake of his administration in June 2023, President Bola Tinubu dissolved the boards of all federal government parastatals, agencies, institutions, and government-owned companies.
Brain drain in Nigeria
Nigeria has been battling with the increasing exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses, to developed countries.
With a doctor-patient ratio over five times worse than the WHO recommendation, Nigeria has continued to lose hundreds of doctors annually to brain drain, a large number of them to the UK. Various statistics show that over 5,000 Nigerian medical doctors have migrated to the UK between 2015 and 2022.
According to data documented by the Development Research and Project Centre (dRPC), 233 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK in 2015; the number increased to 279 in 2016; in 2017 the figure was 475, in 2018, the figure rose to 852, in 2019 it jumped to 1,347; in 2020, the figure was 833 and in 2021, it was put at 932.
As of July, the President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Emeka Orji, revealed that the association is left with only a few over 9,000 medical doctors, due to the brain drain crisis in the healthcare system.
According to the Nigerian Society of Anaesthetists, no fewer than 400 consultant anaesthetists left Nigeria for greener pastures in the last two years.
Also, more than 7,000 pharmacists emigrated from Nigeria in the last two years, due to the lack of incentives to practice locally, according to the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).
The continued emigration of health practitioners has led to a shortage of skilled health workers in the country, which has negatively affected the quality of healthcare services provided to the citizens.
Other health resolutions
The FEC also approved other resolutions aimed at strengthening the health and social welfare sector.
The Minister of Health noted that the resolutions are targeted at relieving the escalating cost of pharmaceuticals and funding of health sector regulatory bodies.
He explained that the Executive Order aims to enable local drug manufacturers to thrive while ensuring fair pricing of essential medicines, following the exit of major multinational pharmaceutical companies from Nigeria.
“Consistent with the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda, which puts the human capital, health and social welfare of Nigerians at the centre, today at the Federal Executive Council, Mr President took three far-reaching decisions relating to the health sector,” he said.
“The first is the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, the hike in prices that we have in the pharmaceutical industry, which is going beyond the reach of many Nigerians, life-saving commodities, devices like syringes and needles and the exit of major companies from our market.
“Those decisions also include the regulation of the sector to protect the health and wellbeing of humans and the third decision is regarding how we deal with the crisis of human resources in the health sector.”
Mr Pate also added that to strengthen healthcare regulation and protect citizens, key regulatory bodies including the Medical and Dental Council will continue to receive funding.