Investment in Nursing Crucial to Achieving Universal Health Coverage – Gitembagara

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A cross section of nurses at the conference.

 

President of the African International Council of Nursing, Nurse Andre Gitembagara, has drawn the attention of African leaders to the priority of investing in Nursing, stressing that this is one of the major means of accelerating universal health coverage (UHC).

Gitembagara, who decried the shortage of nurses, not just in Lagos, Nigeria, but in the entire African continent, lamented that there is a wide gap between the number of nurses needed and what is currently available.

He argued that since statistics show that nurses provide 50 per cent of services in healthcare delivery, their unavailability or shortage will definitely jeopardise the UHC goal.

Gitembagara, who is also president of Rwanda Nurses and Midwives Union, made the observations while presenting the keynote address at the Scientific Week of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Lagos State Chapter, recently.

He said, “If we must achieve universal health coverage and the Sustainable Development Goals in the health sector, government at all levels must invest in Nursing”.

The African nurse leader attributed what he described as huge deficiencies in healthcare to absence of nurses in top managerial positions, where decisions are taken, adding that there is an urgent need for training and retraining of more nurses that will be able to represent nurses’ interest in the corridors of power.

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Also speaking at the conference, President of NANNM, Nurse Michael Nnachi, urged the Nigerian government to give nurses in the country the recognition they deserve, saying nurses are the livewire of the healthcare system.

Nnachi equally averred that nurses, like other professionals in the healthcare sector, should be appointed into various key positions, including board membership, saying such a move would further serve to motivate nurses in the country.

Commenting on theme of the conference, “Our nurses, our future”, the NANNM president highlighted various challenges bedevilling nursing and midwifery practice in Nigeria, which include brain drain and low remuneration, even as he called for the provision of appropriate tools for nurses to work.

Emphasising the need for improved remuneration for nurses across the country, Nnachi said, “There should be provision of life security for the nurses because they deserve to be protected. Nurses are not well paid; whereas, they deserve better remuneration. Paying the nurses well will prevent brain drain. Enhanced nursing salary packages should be provided for the nurses.”

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Continuing, he said, “Upward review of allowances for nurses should be implemented immediately. There should also be all forms of motivation in terms of housing, cars and other benefits that will encourage the nurses. The government should encourage and empower the Nursing and Midwifery Council.”

In his address, Chairman of NANNM in Lagos State, Nurse Olurotimi Awojide, corroborated that investment in Nursing is very important if quality healthcare delivery must be achieved.

He urged the Lagos State Government to invest more in nurses, through sponsorship to trainings and conferences, both local and international.

Awojide noted that the challenge of brain drain has put more pressure on the few available nurses, not just in Lagos State, but also across the country, stressing that the more brain drain in nursing practice, the higher the mortality rate will be in the country.

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Speaking in a brief chat with Pharmanewsonline Awojide lamented what he described as the global shortage of nurses.

He added that the high demand for nurses globally is depleting the number of nurses available in Nigeria, a situation he said is already taking its toll on the country’s health sector.

According to him, based on the World Health Organisation’s recommendation, a nurse is expected to attend to a maximum of four patients, so as to give optimum service and care, but in Nigeria, only two nurses could be attending to a 30-bedded ward, saying this means that one nurse is attending to about 15 patients, as against the recommended four.

Awojide further warned that the current shortage of nurses in the country could get worse, if nothing is done to address it, adding that without the nurses, quality service delivery may not be readily achievable in the hospitals.

“Despite the problem of the shortage that we already have, more nurses are still leaving the country every day. What does the future hold for us, if this ugly trend continue?” Awojide asked.

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