To end the recurring brain drain in the Nigerian health sector, especially among nurses, governments must urgently address the driving factors, which include gross unemployment, poor salaries, poor working conditions, poor health facilities, lack of quality education, political instability, bad leadership, corruption, among other critical issues.
This was one of the submissions made by the Chairman, Forum of Local Government Nurses and Midwives (FOLGONM), Comrade Obafemi Agbede, during a recent interview with Pharmanews.
Agbede, also expressed some concerns about proper implementation of the newly approved hazard allowance for health workers, saying the sincerity of its implementation is questionable. Excerpts of the interview are presented below:
COVID-19 and its various variants have definitely affected nursing practice, even at the local government level. What have been the merits and demerits of the pandemic to nursing practice at the grassroots level?
There is no doubt that COVID-19 and its various variants have changed the orders and structures of societies, particularly in the fields of Nursing and Medicine.
Nurses at the grassroots experience workplace hardships and are faced with moral dilemmas, in addition to the stress they face daily. This is because nurses are positioned at the forefront to fight COVID-19 at the risk of infection for themselves, their families and others with whom they may come in contact. Nurses had to accommodate new protocols, work long shifts, and deal with not only patients but also their remote family members.
Lack or shortage of protective equipment also made nursing care a difficult and challenging risk. Providing care without adequate materials/monetary compensation also makes nursing care difficult.
On the other hand, the pandemic exposed the non-preparedness of our national health system for national emergencies. The pandemic also prepared our health system for unexpected increases in demand for services.
There have been predictions that the pandemic will end with the year 2022. How would you advise nurses to scale up their career beyond bedside nursing?
The healthcare industry is changing fast, which makes starting a nursing career with a bachelor’s degree in nursing a very smart decision. It gives a greater advantage when it comes to choosing where you would like to work as a nurse.
There are nursing careers that don’t focus on providing direct patient care, but still greatly impact on the health outcomes of communities. Such fields include: Public Health Nursing, Nutritionist Nursing, School Nursing, Occupational Health Nursing, Clinical Research Nursing, Forensic Nursing, Nurse Educator, and many others.
Health sector suffered massive brain drain last year, including nursing. In your own opinion, how can this be curbed in the new year?
Brain drain is a product of globalisation which has forced many developed countries to increase search for skilled personnel from developing countries, which is a cheaper option.
To answer your question on how to avert brain drain, we must understand the reasons behind the increased mobility. They are as follows: Mass unemployment, poor salaries, poor working conditions, poor health facilities, lack of quality education, political instability, bad governance, bad leadership, corruption, etc.
There will be improvement if the above reasons are objectively addressed. Accountability in governance is also key in addressing these issues.
The Federal Government has increased the hazard allowances of health workers. Are the local government nurses captured in this new arrangement?
The circular on hazard allowance approved for health workers, as released by the Federal Government, is expected to cut across board because healthcare practitioners from tertiary to the primary healthcare levels are all exposed to hazards. However, the sincerity of its implementation calls for questioning.
You are winding up your tenure of eight years. Looking back, how would you assess your performance?
Looking at the previous years of our administration, we have been able to do a lot for our members. To me, the greatest and most profitable was the capacity-building activities, which were embarked upon since inception of our administration till date.
These capacity-building activities have increased the competences of our members in knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the practice of nursing in primary healthcare.
In the course of our years in office, we have also ensured the proper placement of nurses in healthcare delivery at the grassroots.
Also, at various state levels, we participated in the process of enacting enabling laws for the establishment of Primary Healthcare Boards/Agencies.
What are your plans for the grassroots nurses before your tenure ends?
We intend to ensure that nurses enjoy their proper placement in primary healthcare in Nigeria
How would you advise the incoming chairman?
The incoming chairman should at all times give the interest of nurses at the grassroots a priority. The chairman should work with the leadership of our parent body (NANNM) and protect the constitution of the association at all times.