By Hassan Zaggi
The Federal Government has been advised to declare a state of emergency in Nigeria’s health sector.
This is following the state of near-collapse of the sector in all fronts.
The Executive Director of Project Pink Blue, a Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), Runcie C.W. Chidebe, made the call at a media briefing in Abuja, on Wednesday.
The group has also launched what it christened: Upgrade Oncology.
This, it said, is to support the Federal Government’s efforts in cancer control.
While disclosing the weaknesses in Nigeria’ health sector, Chidebe said: “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 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.
“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 33.45% and 29.25% gap in doctors’ and nurses’ supply.”
He, therefore, regretted that: “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.
“The stark realities of this report stare us in the face and has become a legitimate cause for concern.”
Speaking on how medical doctors leave the country to other parts of the world in search of greener pasture, Chidebe, said: “As at today, 9 in 10 Nigerian physicians are seeking opportunities abroad. This migration of Nigerian healthcare worker 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.”
On the state of cancer care in Nigeria, Dr Adamu Al-Hassan Umar, President, Nigeria Cancer Society, lamented that the depreciating state of Nigeria’s health facilities, late presentation, limited access to quality care, unequal and/or outright poor distribution of oncologists, high cost of cancer therapies, limited access to funds for treatment and limited training for oncology professionals are some of the biggest reasons we still have poor cancer outcomes in Nigeria.
On her part, a breast cancer survivor and Programme Coordinator of Project Pink Blue, Gloria Okwu, recalled that in 2018, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health launched the National Cancer Control Plan (NCCP); 2018 to 2022 with seven priority areas of action, including cancer prevention, diagnosis & treatment with a budget of N97billion ($308 million).
According to her, in order to support the Nigerian government’s plan, Project PINK BLUE with support from the U.S. Mission in Nigeria in 2018 initiated Upgrade Oncology, a U. S. – Nigeria Science & Technology Exchange Program.
Thegoal, she said, is to strengthen the capacity of the Nigerian healthcare workers and oncology professionals through training in diverse oncology areas.