Nigeria needs 10 times more health workers to achieve universal health coverage

Nigeria needs to produce an estimated 450,000 health workers yearly in the next ten years to achieve the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Senior Technical Advisor for Development Research and Project Center (dRPC)-PAS, Emmanuel Abanida, said this in Abuja on Thursday, quoting the World Health Organisation.

He was speaking at a meeting of non-governmental organisations called to deliberate on their role in implementation of the 2014 Task Shifting/Task Sharing (TSTS) policy.

TSTS is a strategy of government formulated to accelerate progress towards achievements of the Millennium Development Goals.

The policy focuses on priority areas such as Family and Reproductive Health, Maternal and Child Health services (RMNCH), HIV, TB, Malaria and other communicable and non-communicable diseases It aims to help the country achieve universal health coverage and meet the health needs of Nigerians.

Mr. Abanida stressed the country cannot achieve universal health coverage if there are no health workers to do the job.

Currently, Nigeria produces only about 45,000 health workers yearly, about one tenth of what the WHO said is required.

Speaking further on the human capital gap, Mr Abanida said Nigeria needs about 237,000 medical doctors, but currently has only 35,000 doctors.

“Nigeria is second in terms of inadequate number of nurses and midwives in Africa with only 152,000, closely followed by Ethiopia.

“Besides, about 65 per cent of Nigerians still lack proper access to healthcare services, while 70 per cent of the rural populace has no access at all to healthcare services in the country, according to World Health Organization (WHO).”

He said the federal government introduced TSTS to move tasks from highly specialised to less specialised health workers.

He said task shifting can make more efficient and effective use of human resources currently available by reallocating tasks among the front-line health care workers.

Mr Abanida noted that the meeting was necessary to brainstorm on the ongoing review of the TSTS so as to ensure smooth implementation across the country.

The Director and Head Reproductive Health Division, Federal Ministry of Health, Kayode Afolabi, said the implementation of the TSTS policy is above 57 per cent across the country, as more states are adopting the policy.

He urge the professionals involved to fast track the implementation of the policy with the aim of repositioning family planning programme on its investment agenda and to ensure that all women of reproductive age have unhindered access to modern family planning methods of their choice in the communities.

The Executive Director, Women, Children and Youth Health and Education Initiative, Bauchi State, Halima Mukaddas, said the TSTS policy has given health workers the mandate to carry out some services in primary healthcare centres (PHCs ) across the state.

She said the policy has been well accepted in Bauchi because the workers see the importance of sharing some of their works to other people.

WHO Country Director, Wondi Alemu, said said the TS policy is important for Nigeria to move towards achieving Universal Health Coverage.

Represented by the National Professional Officer, Maternal, Sexual and Reproductive Health, Olumuyiwa Ojo, Mr Alemu, however, stressed that UHC cannot be achieved without proper attention to the patients themselves.

He said WHO will continue to support the process and the government in implementing this policy.

The one day meeting was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health and the development Research & Project Center (dRPC) under the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PAS) project.

PAS project is an intervention anchored by the dRPC and implemented by a coalition of 12 indigenous Nigerian CSOs and professional health associations holding government at national and state levels accountable on policy, programme and budgetary commitments in the health sector.

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