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Group wants FG to tackle brain drain in health sector

Project Pink Blue a Non Governmental Organisation(NGO) has urged the Federal Government to tackle the problem of brain drain in the health sector through a state of emergency in the sector.

By Angela Atabo

Project Pink Blue a Non Governmental Organisation(NGO) has urged the Federal Government to tackle the problem of brain drain in the health sector through a state of emergency in the sector.

Runcie Chidebe, Executive Director, Project Pink Blue, said this at a news conference tagged “The Need to Declare a State of Emergency on Health Workforce Shortage in Nigeria and the Launch of Upgrade Oncology’’ on Wednesday in Abuja.

Chidebe said that the call became imperative because the health care was the bedrock of the economy, security and all human development and advancement indices.

According to him, in Nigeria, the density of physicians to a patient is four doctors per 10,000 patients and 16.1 nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients.

Uchidebe said was less than the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard of one doctor to 600 patients and the critical threshold of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients.

“It is estimated that Nigeria will approximately need 149,852 doctors and 471,353 nurses by 2030, only 99,120 doctors and 333,494 nurses will be available based on the growth rate.

“ With the above data, by 2030, Nigeria will have a shortage of 50,120 doctors and 137,859 nurses, translating to 33.45 per cent and 29.25 per cent gap in doctors’ and nurses’ supply.

“For a population of 201 million, Nigeria has less than 90 clinical oncologists that is, cancer doctors who provide cancer treatment to over 100,000 cancer patients across the cancer centres.

“ In our calculation, it means that there is only one cancer doctor to over 1,100 cancer patients in Nigeria,” he said.
Chidebe added:”The stark realities of this report stared us in the face and has become a legitimate cause for concern therefore attracting and retaining healthcare workers was a greater concern.”

He said that mass migration of health care workers to foreign countries in recent years had only worsened the inequitable distribution of health care workers.

“As at today, nine in 10 Nigerian physicians are seeking opportunities abroad.

“This migration of Nigerian healthcare workers abroad impact on Nigeria in diverse ways, for instance, the mortality cost of Nigerian physician migration to abroad totaled to 3.1billion dollars annually,” he said.

According to Chidebe, Nigerian government loses at least N3.8million ($9,235) for subsidising the training of its physicians who eventually leave the country to High Income Countries (HICs).

He added that the HICs saved billions of dollars for pulling physicians that they did not train to their countries.

He said that in Nigeria, there were 74,543 registered physicians, however, only an estimated 40,000 were practicing in the country for a population of 201 million.

He said that the reasons for the migration was not farfetched as health workers contended with high clinical workload, poor healthcare system, poor remuneration, corruption in the healthcare system and poor working conditions.

Chidebe added that security challenges, inadequate production of graduates from the health training institutions, lack of necessary facilities, poor value for medical professionals among others were part of the challenge.

Dr Adamu Umar, President, Nigeria Cancer Society, said that Nigeria contributed to the world cancer burden with 124, 815 new cases and 78, 899 deaths and the numbers were expected to rise.

Umar said that the depreciating state of Nigeria’s health facilities, unequal and outright poor distribution of oncologists, high cost of cancer therapies, limited access to funds among others were reasons for poor cancer outcomes in Nigeria.

Glorie Okwu, breast cancer survival and Programme Coordinator, Project Pink Blue said that the group with support from the U.S. Mission in Nigeria initiated Upgrade Oncology, a U. S. Nigeria Science and Technology Exchange Program.

Okwu said that the goal was to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian healthcare workers and oncology professionals through training in diverse oncology areas, in partnership with Fulbright Specialist Programme and Ministry of Health.

She said that Project PINK BLUE with the support from Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation would launch the 2021 Upgrade Oncology with primary focus on the training of oncology pharmacists, cancer doctors and cancer nurses.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the highlight of the event was the launch of the Upgrade Oncology to support the federal government’s efforts in cancer control.(NAN)