YET another indication of Nigerian health workers’ discontent with the increasingly inclement working climate in the country was provided last week when the Secretary-General/Registrar of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, Dr. Faruk Abubakar, revealed that, on an annual basis, over 7,000 professional nurses leave the country for greener pastures. According to him, this was a clear testimony that the country had competent, efficient and hardworking professional nurses that could rank among the best in the world. Dr. Abubakar made this submission when he led members of the council to the Delta State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mordi Ononye, in Asaba, the Delta State capital, shortly before a five-day workshop for examiners engaged in nursing and professional examinations.
The secretary-general/registrar observed that the council felt it necessary to maintain high standards in the profession, adding that this was why every two years, it organised workshops to ensure that the examiners saddled with conducting professional examinations had relevant, updated knowledge in line with global best practices. In response, the Delta Health Commissioner decried the high rate of migration of Nigerian nurses to developed countries, saying that this must be urgently looked into with a view to curbing the threat posed to the country’s health system. He said: “We have a situation where human resource experts, trained and skilled at great cost to the nation, are lost to our health systems by migration to already developed countries. This is worrisome to stakeholders in the health sector and we welcome practical suggestions to solve this problem.” Dr. Ononye commended the council for the good job it had been doing through its rigorous training programmes for nursing students and professionals, saying that this accounted for the competence displayed by Nigerian nurses within and outside the country.
Over time, Nigeria has witnessed increased migration of nurses to developed nations due to push factors such as low remuneration, poor governmental policies, poor working conditions, and pull factors such as good working conditions and better pay, which are offered by developed countries. To say the very least, it is appalling that in a country under-staffed by health workers, the few available workers are being mopped up by the governments of foreign countries. While, for such workers, that upward mobility may bring greater financial rewards and job satisfaction, it remains a fact that Nigeria, which facilitated their training, inevitably ends up on the losing side. Only recently, the Saudi Arabian government conducted a recruitment exercise for resident doctors and consultants in the country. The incident, which took place at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, bore eloquent testimony to Nigeria’s serial failures as a state. If doctors, and now nurses, are leaving Nigeria in droves, that can only render the country’s rather wretched health sector further prostrate and impoverished, as it were. There is hardly any professional training that is not subsidised in one way or the other in the country, and the fact that nurses are exiting Nigeria in droves means that Nigeria and Nigerians are not benefiting from the investment in them.
It cannot but be disturbing news that Nigeria is losing its medical investment to other countries. In simple terms, this means that its future is imperiled: no nation develops without critical human power. The constant haemorrhage of human resources in the health sector bodes ill for the country. Since the mass exodus of nurses and other healthcare workers would not happen if good working conditions were in place, it becomes highly expedient that the system should be restructured in such a way that they are encouraged to stay in the country and give their best to the populace. Unless and until the ravages in the sector are addressed, the mass exodus that the establishment apparently frowns on will continue without let. In any case, the government has become rather notorious for its obnoxiously poor handling of crisis in the sector. Rather than adopting a conciliatory tone and seeking to foster a harmonious relationship with health workers, officials of the Muhammadu Buhari-led government, including the Minister of Labour, have been known to address them disparagingly, thus enabling prolonged strikes. This, we dare say, cannot help the situation in the sector.