Ajayi, Oloriegbe seek urgent attention to tackle brain drain, poor funding for health
President, Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN), Dr. Pamela Ajayi has described the current brain drain in the nation’s health sector as no issue, but a crisis that requires urgent attention.
Speaking at a Strategic Stakeholders Meeting on Draft National Policy on Incentivising the Health Service Industry and Healthcare Investments in Lagos recently, she noted, “We already had a problem; we were underpowered. We don’t have enough doctors and nurses in the first place and the rate at which we are losing them now is a crisis. It is part of the conversation we had and we spoke extensively on some of the solutions to reverse the brain drain. Part of the solutions we proffered was private-sector incentives, training and development.”
With the theme, “Forging a new paradigm,” Senate Committee Chairman on Health, Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, agreed with Ajayi that there is a crisis in the health sector.
Describing brain drain as a complex problem, he said there is also the issue of demand and supply. According to him, “the health workforce is a market. Every human being has the right to wear to work. In some segments of the health sector, the supply is more than the demand and people have to go where their services are needed.”
Speaking further, he said for every worker in the public sector, there are criteria that determine what they earn and you could not say because doctors or nurses are going; they would be given special classification. “They already have a special class of salaries, but if you say you want parity with what is paid to the outside, then other civil servants will also raise issues. This is one of the challenges that we have,” he stated. He further stressed the need for health insurance to be mandatory for all.
In order to address the challenges, he said the National Insurance Health Authority Bill has been passed. He added, “We are waiting for the president to sign it. In the Bill, we created a vulnerable group fund, where we pay for those who could not afford it.” He also said hazard allowance for health workers have been increased, stressing that training allowance for resident doctors that was passed in 2018 is now being implemented.
To the private sector, he noted that if they could be properly incentivized, they would be able to attract the right skills and talents. The incentives, he said, may include, and tax holidays, inputs in terms of drugs or equipment. He said this would enable them to function better.
Reacting to medical tourism, he identified ignorance as one of the challenges. “This country is so very big that someone living in Sokoto or Maiduguri may not know there is a specialised centre in Lagos, which is cheaper than going abroad. HFN should gather data available and disseminate to practitioners and members of the public so that they would know where to go if they have health issues,” he stated. He stressed the need to strengthen the system to make it work better, particularly in the power sector.
Ajayi added that the aim of the meeting was to capture issues affecting their members. She disclosed, “We speak with one voice for the private sector. We gave our members the opportunity to speak directly with the Senator.” She identified challenges as financials, regulatory, taxation and government policies.