As the World Health Organization (WHO) mapped out the year 2020 to appreciate and celebrate nurses and midwives across the globe, it’s imperative for Nigeria and Nigerians to follow suit. With the theme; “Nurses: A Voice to Lead; Nursing the World to Health,” one would concur to the indisputable fact that the health of a nation is basis for its wealth.
In Nigeria, the health sector has received little or nothing in terms of finance and budget meant to boost both human resources and facilities needed to improve health care delivery in the country. In April 2001, the African Union countries (Nigeria been the host) met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 per cent of their annual budget to improve the health care delivery for citizens, called “Abuja Declaration,” 19 years down the line, Nigeria is yet to meet half this agreement, the highest budget earmarked for health sector from the national budget was in 2012, with 5.95 per cent. For 2020, a meager sum of N427.3 billion representing 4.14 per cent was budgeted for health. This amount includes; research and development, trainings, health promotions, facilities and equipments needed among others necessities for the health sector. Furthermore, when N427.3 billion is allotted for each citizen in Nigeria, a paltry sum of N2,000 is due to each person for the fiscal year, this is not only debilitating but scandalous. Various statistics also show that Nigeria has one of the worst health care delivery records in the world. According to the WHO, Nigeria is rated 187th out of 191 countries in terms of healthcare delivery. WHO placed Nigeria at third highest in infant mortality rate in the world. With this conspicuous figure, concerned citizens have maintained that the federal government does not understand the link between health and investment, security and progress. One cannot work nor walk under ill health. Research shows that Ghana, others surpass Nigeria in health sector budget.
Aside, nurses and midwives, all medical practitioners in the country have received no encouragement but threats to leave the country if they so wish. This has led to mass exodus of our medical personnel to other countries where practitioners are valued and appreciated even before now. It seems the administration of President Muhammadu is coming to understand that the over US1bn spent in medical tourism would have been invested in some productive ventures for economic growth and development, hence his recent comment on curbing medical tourism by Nigerians especially the political class should twinge every patriotic mind, but the question remains; “Does the policymakers posses the virtue of integrity to keep their words?”
Speaking with a public health practitioner who doubles as the Universitty Graduates of Nursing Science Association (UGONSA’s) secretary, Ogun State, Nurse Noble Asomugha of Babcock University Teaching Hospital, he decried the ugly situation in the health sector by describing it as appalling. Asomugha said the current challenges in the Nursing profession are but not limited to; under placement and poor remuneration for public health workers across the country which has resulted in some unethical behavior by practicing nurses. He added that hostile work environment is another major problem faced by them. A visit to some public health institutions and facilities would keep one dumbfounded, but investigative journalists would always query the root or remote causes if such ugly sites.
According to him, understaffing has been albatross to delivering health care to the people as there are no sufficient personnel to work. This does not mean absence of young graduates but government dearth of Willpower to employ new personnel. “In Nigeria, Graduates Nurses are not placed in the right cadre with other medical practitioners like Pharmacists and Radiographers. More so, WHO made it clear that it is one Nurse per five patients, but we have one Nurse to ten patients which can lead to stress and fatigue. We suffer workplace threats from relatives of patients who lost their love ones as well records of male medical practitioners who abuse female medical practitioners.”
Equally, a director at LeadNurse Africa International Foundation, Julie Mogbo, added that absence of incentives and other support system is telling adversely on the health practitioners hence they are handicap to work. Mogbo stressed most nurses and midwives are supposed to be attending conferences, seminars, workshops, and symposium, but those are not forthcoming. She bemoaned the poor image of Nurses exacerbated by actors in movie industries and other multimedia persons who use (fake nurses) to act unwholesome movies thereby painting the noble profession black, which must be cautioned forthwith.
Be that as it is, Nurses across the country has called on both state and federal government of Nigeria to wake up to the reality that no one can do anything in life without sound health. They called on Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), industry watchers and policymakers to stand in unionism and address the myriads of challenges the medical profession are facing microcosm of health budget, to quackery, imposters, and abuse if Nigeria must move -Health -wise. The federal government must remember Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) number three (3), which spells out the government must ensure basic “good health and well-being for its citizens,” no amount of excuse can justify the failure of giant of Africa regarding provision of good health and well-being for all, and if the government says it doing its best in this case, the statistics will prove that because what is said to be done must be seen as been done.