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New Health Minister Holds Key to Halting Brain Drain in Healthcare, Say Nurses

In an impassioned plea, nurses have called upon the recently inaugurated Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Muhammad Pate, to spearhead a much-needed overhaul of Nigeria’s healthcare sector. Toba Odumosu, Secretary of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) for the Lagos Zone, delivered this clarion call during a press conference in Lagos on Monday.

Odumosu underscored the urgency of infusing substantial investments into both workforce augmentation and infrastructure enhancement to catalyze a transformation in Nigeria’s health domain. He further urged the newly appointed minister to meticulously align budget allocations for the health sector with the monumental Abuja Declaration pact, stipulating a commitment to earmark at least 15 percent of annual budgets for health sector amelioration.

Remarking on the historic Abuja Declaration, where African Union Heads of State convened in April 2001 to pledge heightened budgetary allocations for healthcare advancement, Odumosu lamented the long-standing underfunding that has plagued Nigeria’s health system. This chronic underinvestment, he stressed, has triggered the exodus of healthcare practitioners from the nation.

Highlighting the woeful insufficiencies in the current system, Odumosu implored the minister to usher in robust initiatives for professional development and establish rewarding frameworks that would counteract the brain drain syndrome currently afflicting the health sector.

Addressing the yawning gap in salary structures for healthcare professionals, Odumosu decried the disparities that have engendered dissatisfaction and unrest among health workers. While adjustments were made for medical doctors, other health professionals have yet to witness equitable revisions in their compensation.

Odumosu also probed the critical issue of primary healthcare, flagging the prevalence of non-operational Primary Healthcare Centers (PHCs) scattered across Nigeria. These moribund PHCs, he asserted, burden secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, underscoring the dire need for radical overhauls and renewed funding mechanisms.

Lauding the minister’s wealth of experience in the primary healthcare system, Odumosu beseeched for a concerted effort to revitalize the floundering PHCs. He accentuated the importance of channeling resources into these centers to facilitate the delivery of both preventive and high-quality healthcare to citizens.

Amid discussions regarding the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria’s strategy to enact a migration policy to counter brain drain, Odumosu emphasized the importance of policies that motivate retention rather than departure. Expressing the dire need for conducive professional environments, he cited instances where restrictions impeded midwives from conducting child deliveries in tertiary hospitals without ministerial circulars.

Odumosu elucidated the essentiality of policies that affirm the value, recognition, and appreciation of nurses, reiterating the need for policies that champion the aspirations of healthcare professionals. He also implored the Federal Government to cultivate an inclusive approach in its cabinet and boards across health ministries, departments, and agencies. Reflecting on the dearth of nurse representation in leadership roles, he called for the cultivation of a sense of belonging and active participation for nurses in shaping the nation’s healthcare landscape.

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