The exodus of healthcare workers from Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe continues, despite the WHO red list and a range of laws to keep them at home.
It took nearly three hours of queueing in Ikorodu general hospital in Lagos state, Nigeria, before Hadijat Hassan, a retired civil servant, could see a nurse. The 66-year-old has attended the clinic for health checks since being diagnosed with diabetes nearly 10 years ago. But since May, she says, the delays, often while suffering from excruciating pain in her legs, are worse than ever.
“You can get there [the hospital] and meet about 50 people waiting to be attended to,” Hassan says. “They said all of their nurses and doctors have been leaving for abroad. Just a few are left.”
In Nigeria, there is one doctor for every 5,000 patients, whereas the average in developed countries is one doctor for about every 254 people.
A hospital official said the Ikorodu management get resignation notices from nurses and doctors almost every month.
“Many leave for the US, Canada, UK and, most recently, Australia,” says the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives has reported there is now a ratio of one nurse to 1,160 patients. Its president, Michael Nnachi, said that more than 75,000 nurses had left Nigeria since 2017.
“If you look at the conditions of service of health workers generally, you’ll see the difficult challenges complicated by the current economic realities,” he said, adding that rising inflation has compounded the problems.
The World Health Organization predicts a worldwide shortage of 10 million health and care workers by 2030 – mostly in low-income countries, where people are leaving for opportunities abroad.
This is despite the WHO’s introduction of a safeguard list to stop rich countries poaching from poorer countries with staff shortages.
The “red list”, launched in 2020 with plans to update it every three years, includes Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe and 34 other African countries. Yet the UK’s nursing regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council, says more than 7,000 Nigerian nurses relocated to the UK between 2021 and 2022.
Data from the Ghana Registered Nurses and Midwives Association shows that nearly 4,000 nurses left the country in 2022. In Zimbabwe, more than 4,000 health workers, including 2,600 nurses, left in 2021 and 2022, the government said.
The WHO has no powers to prohibit recruitment of doctors from countries on the list, but recommends “government-to-government health worker migration agreements be informed by health labour market analysis and the adoption of measures to ensure adequate supply of health workers in the source countries”.
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