Even as the COVID-19 pandemic rages globally and in the country, the total number of registered nurses working in Nigerian hospitals is less than 150,000, LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation has revealed.
This is amidst growing need and demand for nurses worldwide nay Nigeria.
With this development, both government and private-owned hospitals now experience a severe dearth of this very important arm of health providers.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation has, however, revealed that most private hospitals in the land have resorted to quack nurses to augment the acute shortage.
Their government-owned counterparts, by law, are forbidden to engage quacks otherwise known as auxiliary nurses.
Findings further revealed that quackery in the nursing profession has become a trend in the country due to shortage of nurses in the country.
This practice, it was learnt, has become a source of worry to many Nigerians and the nursing professional body, especially in the phase of COVID-19, when a lot of people are compelled to patronise private hospitals, due to lack of access and attention in public hospitals.
While there is a perception that the trend is being driven by a shortage of qualified nurses in the country as a result of brain drain, LEADERSHIP Weekend findings showed otherwise. It was learnt that even though there was a widespread shortage of nurses, there were still many unemployed qualified nurses in the country.
Consequently, LEADERSHIP Weekend checks showed that the reasons these hospitals go for quacks are because they need cheap labour.
The president of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Abdulrafiu Adeniji, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that there is nothing like auxiliary nurses in Nigeria.
He said: “If you look at the law that established nursing and midwifery in Nigeria, there is nothing like auxiliary nurses. You are either a nurse or you are not.’’
On the number of registered nurses in the country, Adeniji said that there are less than 150,000 registered nurses working in both public and private hospitals in the country.
He reiterated the commitment of the association aimed at finding a lasting solution to quackery in the health sector.
He stressed that the body was ready to invoke the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria Registration Act Cap N143, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.
The helmsman of the nursing body said invoking the laws would help to regulate the standards of nursing and midwifery education and practice to bring sanity to the sector.
He, however, cautioned that hiring of quacks was dangerous for the nation, adding that people were dying as a result of quackery practices in the health sector.
He said, “We have to make sure that something tangible is done to stamp out quackery,’’ he said. According to him, “WHO stipulates that in cases where there are shortages of trained personnel, there is danger.
WHO also said in 2001 that the people must have access to safe, affordable, accessible and timely healthcare services, all these are endangered with quacks that are called auxiliary nurses.’’
According to Adeniji, though quackery is a
global trend, many countries have regulated it and anybody caught as a quack in those countries will face severe consequences.
He, however, regretted that in Nigeria, many people practise quackery perhaps because the law is very lenient on the illicit practice.
He also warned of the dire penalty awaiting perpetrators of the illegal act especially when the loss of a human life is involved.
He said, “Anybody that practises as a quack in Nigeria can face a murder charge in court if the patient loses his life. But in cases where it does not involve life when caught in the act as a quack nurse, such person will pay just N1,000 or six months in prison.
“Although the National Health Act in 2014 introduced some other dimensions, the law is still very lenient.
“There are less than 150,000 registered nurses working in both public and private hospitals in the country.’’
The nurses’ association chair, however, painted a gloomy situation in the nearest future as he said no less than the already depleted number of nurses would quit active service in the next seven years.
Adeniji described the existing less than 150,000 figure as a drastic shortage, explaining that this indicates about six nurses to 100,000 population.
This according to him falls short of the UN and WHO recommended figure of 40 nurses to 100,000 people.
He said: “This is a looming danger, out of these, some are even retiring. In the next five years, 30 per cent of the nurse workforce will be retiring. In the seven years, up to 50- 60 per cent of the experienced nurses and midwives will be retiring.
“The WHO prescription is 40 nurses per 100,000 population but Nigeria is operating five to six nurses to 100,000 populations.”
Adeniji also called for a declaration of a state of emergency in the recruitment of nurses, saying that failure to do that would be dangerous for the country’s healthcare services.
“If there is no emergency in the recruitment of nurses, the danger of lack of care for the populace will be more than the danger of insurgency,” he added.
Health Workers Threaten Strike Over COVID-19 Allowance
The Medical and Health Workers Union of
Nigeria (MHWUN) has warned that the union will not guarantee industrial harmony in the health system if her members, who it said were wrongly paid 10 per cent as COVID-19 allowance, are not addressed by the relevant authorities.
The national president of MHWUN, Comrade Josiah Biobelemoye, who gave this warning during a visit to the chief medical director (CMD), University of Abuja Teaching Hospital (UATH), Prof Ekele Bisalla, said the union has resolved to shut down the health system, if the government fails to correct the anomalies before paying the third badge of COVID-19 allowance.
He explained that the Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHESS) adjustment must be done without delay, as her members are running out of patience.
MHWUN further blamed the ministry of Health for creating division among the healthcare workers, irrespective of their professions.
According to him: “We signed an agreement with the ministry of Health on the COVID-19 allowance that those who earned N5,000 hazard allowance would be upgraded to get 50 per cent of their basic salaries.”
The union leader further lamented that: “instead of implementing the agreement accordingly, the CMDs of various hospitals were misled to implementing only the ‘D’ part of the agreement, which they misunderstood and considered as giving 10 per cent to our members as non-medical professionals.
“There is one misinformation that has been going around about COVID-19 allowances. We entered into an agreement, and it was explicit. The agreement in paragraph one of part ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ is very clear, but the CMDs were misled to act on paragraph ‘D’ only, leaving out all other aspects.
“This was confirmed even when we met with the Federal Ministry of Health officials. They agreed that there was an error and asked us to give them the lists of those that were wrongly paid the 10 per cent, which we since did.
“So, we want your management team to know that the circular with the wrong information can be withdrawn and replaced with the corrected one. This is because, in the agreement, paragraph one ‘A’ stated that the N5,000 hazard allowance has been shelved, and in its place, 50 per cent shall be approved for all health workers, and not health professionals.”