…laments mass migration of health care workers to foreign countries

…says Nigeria accounts for 90 oncologists to 100,000 patients

By Fortune Eromosele, Abuja

Disturbed by the shortage of workforce in the health sector, a cancer advocacy group, Project PINK BLUE, has disclosed that Nigeria will have a shortage of 50,120 doctors and 137,859 nurses by 2030, lamenting the mass migration of health care workers to foreign countries.

The Executive Director, Project PINK BLUE, Runcie Chidebe, made this known at a press briefing, during the official launch of the ‘Upgrade Oncology’ in collaboration with ACT Foundation.

He noted that in Nigeria, the density of physicians to a patient is 4 doctors per 10,000 patients and 16.1 nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients, which he said is less than the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of 1 doctor to 600 patients and the critical threshold of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients.

He therefore urged the Federal Government to declare a State of Emergency on the brain drain in the health workforce, and to increase the level of investment in the health sector.

He said: “It is estimated that Nigeria will approximately need 149,852 doctors and 471,353 nurses by 2030, only 99,120 doctors and 333,494 nurses will be available based on the growth rate. With the above data, by 2030, Nigeria will have a shortage of 50,120 doctors and 137,859 nurses, translating to a 33.45 percent and 29.25 percent gap in doctors’ and nurses’ supply.

“For a population of 201 million, Nigeria has less than 90 clinical oncologists (that is, cancer doctors) who provide cancer treatment to over 100,000 cancer patients across the cancer centres. In our calculation, it means that there is only one cancer doctor to over 1,100 cancer patients in Nigeria.

“As of today, 9 in 10 Nigerian physicians are seeking opportunities abroad. This migration of Nigerian healthcare workers abroad impacts on Nigeria in diverse ways, for instance, the mortality cost of Nigerian physician migration to abroad totals to $3.1billion annually.

“Nigerian government loses at least N3.8million ($9,235) for subsidizing the training of its physicians who eventually leave the country to high-income countries (HICs)/abroad. These HICs save billions of dollars for pulling physicians that they did not train to their countries. In Nigeria, there are 74,543 registered physicians, however, only an estimated 40,000 are practicing in the country for a population of 201 million.”

Also speaking, President of Nigeria Cancer Society, Dr. Adamu Umar, stressed on the need to support the initiative, said “We support the Upgrade Oncology Programme this year, which could not be more crucial, as the initiative’s efforts to train cancer care professionals shall not only strengthen Nigeria’s capacity to provide quality cancer care but also support the Nigerian government’s efforts towards achieving the National Cancer Control Plan by 2022.”

Similarly, Chairman, Oncology Pharmacist Practitioners Association of Nigeria (OPPAN),Pharm Ramat Alabelewe, said that Nigeria has a limited number of pharmacists in the area of oncology.

“In the area of oncology pharmacy, Nigeria has only 61 pharmacists who specialize in oncology care in over 16 hospitals across Nigeria. Some of the pharmacists have the required knowledge and skills, others require additional training. For this reason, we welcome this intervention as we strongly believe that it would make a remarkable difference in cancer control in Nigeria,” he said

In the same vein, Chief Executive Officer, Aspire Coronation Trust Foundation, Osayi Alile, pointed out that ACT has always supported the Project due to its commitment in creating cancer awareness and in the hopes of changing the narrative.

“Nigeria remains a major contributor to the cancer burden on the African continent. Over the years, ACT Foundation has supported Project PINK BLUE, whose primary focus is on creating cancer awareness, in the hopes of changing this narrative. These initiatives revealed that individuals seeking treatment after screenings lack access to optimal cancer treatment and care.

“Furthermore, many Nigerian healthcare professionals are unable to afford required cancer treatment training, leading to poor treatment outcomes for many Nigerian cancer patients. Quality cancer treatment requires the best medical professionals that specialize in key cancer treatment areas such as pharma-oncology, chemotherapy, surgery, radiotherapy, palliative and survivorship,” he said

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