The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate has that about 400,000 health workers in Nigeria are insufficient to cater to the healthcare needs of Nigerians.
Pate made the statement while addressing newsmen on Saturday in Abuja, after his three-day briefing session with departments and agencies under the ministry.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the meeting was organised by the ministry to chart a blueprint for Nigeria’s healthcare system.
According to Pate, the 400,000 workforce comprise community health workers, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, physicians, lab scientists, technicians, and auxiliaries working in the Nigerian healthcare system.
“They are not enough if you think that this number can take care of 220 million people. Our doctor-to-population ratio is lower than what the World Health Organisation expects.
“So there’s still room to produce more. In fact, to produce excess because globally, there’s a shortage of health manpower, there is almost a shortage of 18 million people.
In developed countries where they are aging, they are retiring so they need more people to provide services.
So if we think about it, we can produce for our own needs and if some leave then they go and earn resources and they come back with some experience, ” he said
Pate, however, said that if infrastructure was improved, and people were treated with respect, some of them would come back to serve the country.
So I don’t want to undervalue the contribution of the workers that we have.
“We have to acknowledge them, celebrate them, make life easier for them even as we train more or re-train the ones that we have even as we work to resolve their issues.
“We really value the Nigerian health workforce and will continue to support and develop that going forward,” he added.
Speaking on ending medical tourism, Pate said that the trend was present in almost all countries whether developed or developing as people leave the U.S. to East Asia to have surgical procedures because it is more affordable there.
However, what seems to be an issue is using public financing to fund it and missing the opportunity to keep some of the resources used in engaging in medical tourism back in the country.
On getting financing from development partners for the sector, Pate said that the team had met with some of the partners to give them the direction Nigeria needed their support.
According to him, the bulk of the health budget in Nigeria is from the government at different levels, while a smaller portion is what the development partners bring to the table.
“Let’s get to a point whereby we have a programme and the government’s budget is put on the table and you are contributing to that and there’s transparency on both sides.
“Government needs to know more about how the external parties deploy their resources, just as it also needs to open up a little bit more on what is coming from its own side,’’ he said.