Aghedo: Adequate healthcare funding will improve wellbeing, boost life expectancy’
Princewill Aghedo popularly known as ‘Descendant of Nightingale’ is an executive of the Empower Nurses Consult (ENC), a human capital organisation that is aimed at providing academic and professional development opportunities for nurses and allied healthcare professionals in Nigeria. In a chat with OPEYEMI BABALOLA, the award-winning healthcare practitioner spoke on how to reposition the nation’s healthcare system.
As a nurse, how do you intend to use your profession to effect positive change in the country and across the globe?
There is this popular quote that says, “you can’t change the entire world, chose the part of the world that is yours to fix and obsessively focus on that part. Let the rest go.” So, as a nurse, I am going to ensure that in my area of interest, which are public healthcare and nursing advocacy, there will be fair representation of nursing across different areas of development. I will also ensure that I am constantly involved in groundbreaking research that can improve global healthcare in terms of infection control, pandemic preparedness and emergency response.
How can Nigeria’s healthcare system be repositioned?
Repositioning our healthcare system starts with the nation’s leadership; it is not a thing any individuals can do much about. Ministers and Commissioners of Health have the requisite experiences to draw from in terms of education and understanding of the country’s health terrain and not those who have been abroad for many years and would only come to introduce foreign ideas that cannot work. We need people who understand the Afrocentric responses and approaches to manage the nation’s healthcare sector and healthcare delivery. While effective leadership and management are vital, there should be an increase in the budgetary allocation to make implementation impactful, especially at the grassroots. A family whose total income is about two or N3 million per year, and any of its members develops a kidney disease or heart problems that family would not be able to take care of its member because of the cost involved. Healthcare insurance should be prioritised to help every Nigerian; as we have car insurance, we should also have healthcare insurance.
A wide coverage of healthcare funding will improve quality of life and boost the nation’s life expectancy. Statistics has it that life expectancy in the country is about 52 years for men and 55 for women; comparing this to other countries’ statistics, you will see that we have a low life expectancy. This is due to many factors, including poor healthcare service and budgeting.
If funding is increased, many facets of our healthcare services will be revamped, especially the ‘emergency response’ service. This area will receive a boost. We don’t have government emergency evacuation services like the helipads to airlift people in times of emergency in areas faraway from the hospitals. It is quite sad! We don’t have legislation around road coordination, for instance if an ambulance is passing, what are the responsibilities of government to ensure that people don’t disrupt traffic?
How would you assess the nursing and healthcare delivery in Canada and in Nigeria?
Canada is one of the top destinations for nurses across the globe. In Canada, a nurse earns about $35-60 per hour, which is encouraging. People are going there to work. Apart from this, there are advance career opportunities for professionals; you can become an advanced health practitioner. In Nigeria even if you have a Ph.D, you will work as a senior nurse. The system in Canada allows you to become a practitioner.
Generally, nursing is rewarding in Canada. With your certification, you can be a Director of Care in a Nursing Home. In contrast to Nigeria, their system is of international standard and targeted at people. This is because everyone pays tax, hence, government is ready to ensure that taxpayers’ money is utilised to provide a holistic healthcare. The free healthcare is not compromised, it is of high quality; it is standardised and everyone benefits. Even the Prime Minister receives care from government hospitals.
I have worked in operating theatres where surgeries, including appendectomy, Caesarean sections, repair of hernia among others took place. We worked with sophisticated equipment, which cannot be compared to any equipment in any hospital in the Nigeria.
Some of our celebrities and high income earners travel abroad to give birth because they do not have confidence in the nation’s healthcare system, whether private or public. Nigeria has a lot of work to do to restore confidence of Nigerians on its healthcare service delivery.
And part of the things to do is that government agencies regulating healthcare services should diligently do their job. They should ensure that only registered surgeons carry out surgeries and registered nurses are also involved. Hospital facilities should be regularly inspected too. We now have laser and robotics surgery and our medical students should know about them. We have a lot of work to do to improve the curriculum of our medical schools to meet the 21st century narrative, so that our healthcare practitioners can compete the global scene.
What can government do to check brain drain in the sector?
Many healthcare workers leave the country because they no longer feel secure; not just the nurses. From the latest tourism index, Nigeria is one of the top five unsafe countries to live. Aside from security, there are other factors such as poor healthcare system, poor remuneration, non-payment of allowances, unhealthy working conditions, among others. Government should take a cue from developed countries on what they are doing right and apply them to attract and retain healthcare workers.
In one year over 7,000 nurses have left the country, which means our population is growing, while our nurses are reducing in their numbers. Instead of having a nurse ratio of 1:1, 000 families, we now have a nurse ratio of 1:8,000 families.
Government should put up attractive policies to make people work. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) should collaborate with nurses leaving the country to drive development and reposition the nation’s healthcare system.
What are your plans, hopes and aspirations, for years to come?
I want to be one of the top performing nurses from Nigeria, who is able to influence global healthcare system. Currently, I am doing my master’s in public health and business administration, so that, I can have a position in the global scheme of things. We cannot influence healthcare globally if we don’t talk about public health; we cannot influence management in institutions if we do not have the right qualifications as healthcare administrators. I am arming myself with the right knowledge, skills and experience to do so. I want to become a topnotch leader in healthcare sector and not just in nursing. I want to be where I will be able to use my skills and expertise to influence policies and decisions and also, to make healthcare become much more accessible, affordable and available to people across different facet of life. I also aspire to become a health management consultant in Nigeria in the next two years, apart from establishing a consulting firm that would improve healthcare delivery. I have been to the UK and Canada, and have seen how their governments have been able to fix their healthcare and hope to take a cue from them to improve our system.