PROJECT Pink Blue, a health and psychological trust centre in Abuja, has urged the Nigerian government to declare a state of emergency on the shortage of health workforce in Nigeria.
Executive Director of Project Pink Blue Runcie Chidebe, who spoke at the launch of an oncology pharmacy training programme called ‘Upgrade Oncology,’ said inequitable distribution of healthcare workers, lack of sufficient oncologists and doctors in Nigeria and the challenge of mass migration of health workers out of the country were key problems facing cancer patients.
He said the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended one doctor to 600 patients but Nigeria had four doctors to 10,000 patients.
“In Nigeria, the density of physicians to a patient is four doctors to 10,000 patients and 16.1 nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients, a figure less than WHO recommendation and the critical threshold of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 patients,” he said.
“It is estimated that Nigeria will approximately need about 149,000 doctors and about 471,000 nurses by 2030. Only 99,000 doctors and 333,000 nurses will be available.
“With the above data,” he continued, “by 2030, Nigeria will have a shortage of about 50,000 doctors and 137,000 nurses, translating to about 33.4 per cent and 29.2 per cent gap in doctors and nurses.
“Oncologists in Nigeria are fewer than 90, and Nigeria has over 100,000 cancer patients,” Chidebe pointed out, referring to the situation as ‘worrisome.’
Chidebe added that high cost of cancer therapists, limited access to funds for treatment and little training for oncology professionals were other reasons for poor cancer outcomes in Nigeria.
President of the Nigerian Cancer Society Adamu Umar referred to cancer as the second most common cause of mortality after cardiovascular diseases worldwide.
He said the depreciating state of Nigeria’s health facilities and unequal and/ or outright poor distribution of oncologists were some of the problems facing the health sector in Africa’s most populous nation.
Programme Coordinator for Project Pink Bllue Gloria Okwu said Upgrade Oncology was formed to support the Federal Ministry of Health’s National Cancer Control Plan.
According to Okwu, the Upgrade Oncology training programme worked to create awareness, noting that it had brought in two US-based oncology experts to train 44 Nigerian clinical oncologists.
The Chairman of Oncology Pharmacy Practitioners Association (OPPAN) Ramat Masud said Nigeria had 61 oncology pharmacists specialising in oncology care in over 16 hospitals across the country. She welcomed the intervention of Project Pink Blue, which she said would provide additional training for oncologists.