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Nigeria experiencing internal brain drain, says health minister.

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….as FG launches project for manpower gaps in PHCs

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By AKOR SYLVESTER-Abuja
Minister of Health,. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday said the country’s health care system was facing internal brain drain, noting that many health care workers are currently migrating from rural communities to urban centres for, better jobs and work experience.
Ehanire who spoke at the launch of the Community-based Health Research, Innovative Training and Services Programme (CRISP), in Abuja, on Monday, hinted that the Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) and  rural communities are most affected by the increasing dearth of manpower, adding that such had resulted in poor quality of service at the PHCs.
He, however, expressed optimism that the CRISP initiative will herald significant improvement in manpower in the PHCs, and also reflected in the quality of health care service being delivered at the PHCs.
The minister said: “Nigeria is facing the challenges of gross inadequacy and inequity in the availability of human resource for health especially skilled birth attendants, notably, doctors, nurses, midwives, and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs)) trained on modified life saving skills across PHC facilities.
“Working in PHCs have remained unattractive to most skilled workers. They prefer to provide services in the urban centres. So, aside from problem of gross inadequacy and inequitable distribution of skilled health care workers, we are also facing this problem of detrition from the PHC facilities.
“With this kind of situation, no matter how much you invest in building and equipping a health care facility, if there are no skilled workers to provide the needed services, it is as good as there are no health care services for the people.”
Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in his presentation, explained that CRISP initiative was one of the ways of achieving the first of interrelated four-point agenda on PHC transformation in Nigeria.
He further explained that CRISP is a partnership between NPHCDA, the tertiary teaching hospitals, the Federal Medical Centres, the State Primary Health Care Boards, Local Government Areas and the communities to support PHC development.
The NPHCDA boss said the initiative will, expectedly, leverage the teaching hospitals and federal medical centres in states to pull together skilled health care workers to the PHCs in local communities where they will routinely provide services and mentorship, as well as build the capacity of the PHC workers.
He noted that CRISP was conceptualized and designed in ways that would be helpful towards the realization of government’s vision of Universal Health Coverage.
Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, who launch the project, described the CRISP project as another innovative programme targeted at addressing one of the most critical challenges facing Nigeria’s health sector in Nigeria which is the dearth of human resource for health, especially at PHC level.
Prof. Osinbajo, who was represented by the Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen, said, “there’s not a single country in the world that can boast of effective health care delivery without adequate and well distributed human resource for health.
“No matter how much of a masterpiece the architecture of a health facility is, or how sophisticated the equipment are, or even the availability of the commodities, a health care delivery system will not function optimally if there are not enough skilled workers.
“For this reason, I think there is no better way to tackle the challenges of health care delivery in Nigeria than to close the gaps on the equitable availability of skilled health workers in our PHC facilities, this can be achieved by a creative measure such as the CRISP.
“I am aware that Nigeria makes up only two per cent of the world population but accounts for 14 per cent of the world’s maternal death burden. Similarly, our country loses 2,500 children under the age of five everyday due to largely preventable causes, including the lack of services that skilled birth attendants could provide.
“It is of interest that 80 percent of these death burdens occur at PHCs and community levels. This clearly justifies the need for urgent actions to be taken to implement the CRISP to address this situation.
The President and I, are ever passionate about interventions that would help to improve the health and wellbeing of the Nigerian people, and I have no doubt in the capacity of Dr. Faisal and his team working in partnership with the academia and teaching hospital will implement and get the desired result from this initiative.
“This initiative will not only make skilled health workers from our teaching hospitals and federal medical centres available to offer services in our PHCs but will also be leveraged to ensure capacity transfer to, and mentorship of PHC workers as well as promotion of best practices in community health.”
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