The coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Ali Pate, says the country still needs about 400,000 health workers to cater to the healthcare needs of Nigerians effectively.
Addressing newsmen on Saturday in Abuja, after his three-day briefing session with departments and agencies under the ministry, he said, “The 400,000 workforce comprise community health workers, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, physicians, lab scientists, technicians, and auxiliaries working in the Nigerian healthcare system.”
The minister explained that health workers are not enough as the number can not take care of 220 million people, stressing that the doctor-to-population ratio in the country is lower than what the World Health Organisation expects.
According to him, there is still room to produce more and excess because globally, there’s a shortage of health manpower, saying that there is almost a shortage of 18 million people.
In developed countries where they are ageing, the Pate explained that they are retiring and need more people to provide services.
While speaking on ending medical tourism, Pate explained that the trend was present in almost all countries, whether developed or developing, as people leave the U.S. to East Asia to have surgical procedures because they are more affordable there.
He lamented that what seems to be an issue is using public financing to fund it and missing the opportunity to keep some of the resources used in engaging in medical tourism back in the country.
He stated that unlocking the healthcare value chain includes mobilising private capital to invest in the physical infrastructure and the human resources so that some of the services people go to India for are here in the country.
“We have begun discussing mechanisms or models where we’ll go on that path as part of expanding the value chain so that it’s not necessarily publicly financed.
“So if you want to have plastic surgery, there’s no need to use government money to pay for your plastic surgery but if we have a facility that will do that here for you, we will keep your dollars here and employ a few attendants here to do the procedure for you,” he noted.
He, however, assured that the Federal Government would use the opportunity of human capital, private sector capital, and innovation to provide services that people could use in the country.
On getting financing from development partners for the sector, Pate said that the team had met with some of the partners to give them the direction Nigeria needed their support.
According to him, the bulk of the health budget in Nigeria is from the government at different levels, while a smaller portion is what the development partners bring to the table.