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Stakeholders advocate increased spending for health sector

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Some stakeholders in the health sector have urged governments to close the gaps in the health sector through monetary and non-monetary reforms incentives to encourage qualified health workers to work in rural areas.

The call was made by participants at a webinar on Human Resources for Health Challenges and Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria in organised by ACIOE Foundation monitored in Abuja on Friday.

The webinar was aimed at providing health stakeholders the opportunity to share their expertise and data-driven recommendations on the biggest challenges of human resources for health.

It explored how training, recruitment, retention, remuneration and government strategies/commitment, and how task-shifting and task-sharing policy can be leveraged to achieve Universal Health Coverage for all by 2030 in Nigeria were discussed.

Experts also discussed the current situation of medical personnel emigrating to other countries and provided best practices on how the government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could reduce migration of healthcare providers.

In his presentation, Dr Stanley Ukpai, Director of Projects, Development Research and Project Center, said Nigeria, with over 206 million people, has only 3 per cent of the world’s health workforce, while facing 24 per cent of the global disease burden.

“Also, the highest allocation of the Nigerian government to health care as a percentage of the budget was 6.19% in 2015, which is against the recommended 15 per cent in the Abuja Declaration of 2001.

“As a result, there are N2.38 trillion in deficits.

“The allocation of such an amount to the sector would have had a greater impact on personnel, which would have helped achieve minimum thresholds for skilled health workers,” he said.

He noted that production has not translated into adequacy in Nigeria’s tertiary, secondary, and primary healthcare centres.

He also said the difference between the number of professionals produced and those employed in the health sector could be attributed to brain drain, with low-capacity utilisation and an unfavorable working environment playing a part.

Dr Ngozi Azodoh, a public health physician, called for more advocacy to the government and labour employers on remuneration, career progression, job satisfaction, migration policy review, and production of healthcare workers, amongst others.

She said that if Nigeria gets the human resources sector right, achieving Universal Health Coverage by 2030 would be easier.

While acknowledging that healthcare funding has increased in different countries, including Nigeria both at national and sub-national levels, the forum said that Nigeria was yet to achieve the Abuja Declaration of allocating 15 per cent of national budget to health.

Asides from funding, the forum called on relevant authorities to address discrimination against women in the healthcare workforce as well as a revision of self-care guidelines to accommodate emerging issues.

It also advocated the encouragement of migration of medical graduates to enhance their skills and knowledge, which eventually would flow back to benefit the source community and its healthcare system.

Experts at the webinar agreed that investments in skilled health workers from the public and private sectors should align with population health needs and health system demands.

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