FG bans leave of absence for health workers

FG bans leave of absence for health workers

Amidst revelation that no fewer than 15,000 to 16,000 doctors have left the country for greener pastures in the last five years, the Federal Government has announced a new policy prohibiting health workers from taking leave of absence.

The new policy was announced weekend by the Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa during his visit to the Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital in Aro, Ogun State. 

 “The government has put a rule in place that says healthcare workers can’t take time off if they want to work abroad,” he said.

He added that if health workers wanted to go abroad for better opportunities, they would have to quit their jobs.

Alausa said the era of health workers exiting to other countries in search of better offers after applying for a leave of absence is no longer acceptable.

The minister said that the ban emanated from the executive order issued by President Bola Tinubu as part of drastic steps to combat the challenge of brain drain fondly called ‘Japa Syndrome’ confronting the nation’s health sector.

He further  revealed that the FG has commenced the production of manpower in the health sector such that the annual enrolment of nurses which used to be 28,000 is now 68,000 and that by the end of this year, it would have gone up to 120,000.

 “The government is not unmindful of the Japa effect on our manpower in the health sector and the President has ordered for massive production of manpower such that when people go, there will always be replacement.

Meanwhile, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Ali Pate, in a Television interview on Sunday disclosed that 55,000 licensed doctors are currently  in the country to attend to the growing population of patients following the exodus of health professionals to hospitals and health facilities abroad.

According to him, the country lost about 15,000 to 16,000 doctors to the Japa syndrome while about 17,000 had been transferred.

Pate, who said the brain drain syndrome has robbed the health sector of its best hands, affirmed that the government is doing its best to expand the training scheme and motivate others who chose to stay back and serve their fatherland.

The brain drain phenomenon, otherwise known as ‘Japa’, has seen a generation of young doctors, health workers, tech entrepreneurs and a number of professionals abandoned Nigeria for greener pasture abroad.

But the minister reiterated that though there are 300,000 health professionals in Nigeria, only 55,000 of them are doctors.

He said, “There are about 300,000 health professionals working in Nigeria today in all cadres. I am talking about doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, laboratory scientists and others. We did an assessment and discovered we have 85,000 to 90,000 registered Nigerian doctors. Not all of them are in the country. Some are in the Diaspora, especially in the US and UK. But there are 55,000 licensed doctors in the country.

“The issue overall, in terms of health professionals, is that they are not enough. They are insufficient in terms of the skills mix. Can you believe most of the high skilled professional doctors are in Lagos, Abuja and a few urban centres? There is a huge distribution issue.

“The population of doctor overall is about 7,600 doctors in Lagos and 4,700 or thereabout in Abuja. The doctor to population ratio in Abuja is 14.7 per 10,000 population. These are numbers that you can verify. In Lagos, it is about 4.6, even though the average is 2.2 by 10,000.

 “There are huge distributional issues and they are, of course, the opportunities even for some of those who have been trained to get into the market. So you have to look at it from a perspective that is holistic. Not only doctors but other cadres that are important in the delivery of health care. For doctors, we have been losing many that have been trained.”


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