As part of measures to ensure that healthcare services reach rural communities, the federal government is considering a restructuring of the recruitment standards for health workers across the country.
Minister of State for Health, Dr. Muhammed Pate, who disclosed this at the weekend, canvassed a review of standards for recruiting health workers at the state and local government levels, noting that this would tackle the problem of under-staffing in the primary healthcare centres at both levels.
Speaking at a conference on maternal, newborn and child health, Pate observed that high recruitment standards set at the national level may be responsible for some state and local government authorities being unable to staff health facilities.
"We have set high standards nationally, but are we able to maintain those standards? We cannot sit here in Abuja and think we can regulate all activities because the needs of every state are different," he said.
Pate, who was representing the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, at the event, said the conference was aimed at seeking innovative ways of dealing with Nigeria's burden of maternal and child deaths.
Executive Director of National Primary Heath Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Muhammad Ado, said "implementation of the strategy is yet to achieve the desired results," stating that efforts are in top gear to improve on the programmes earmarked to address the situation.
Dana Mausri, of the US Agency for International Development, who suggested that standards may be depriving available health facilities of manpower, called for "assured dependable funding that is increasing over time" to help prevent facilities and manpower from running out.
The strategy targets 15 states where the burden of maternal and child deaths are highest due to low performance and coverage. Delegates will also consider financing, skewed distribution of health workers, partnerships and effects of poverty. The two-day conference organised by National Primary Health Care Development Agency, in collaboration with the Canadian International Development Agency and United Nations Health Organisations (UNICEF, UNFPA and WHO) is aimed at reducing deaths among women during childbirth, and among newborn infants and children under five years.
Meanwhile, with effect from March 1, patients seeking medical attention at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) in Akwa Ibom State will no longer pay high charges as the Minister of Health, Prof. Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu, has directed the management of the health facility to reduce bill paid by patients after treatment.
The minister gave the directive at the weekend after inaugurating and inspecting 14 projects embarked upon by the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the hospital, Prof. Etete J. Peters, and the management staff. Among the projects inaugurated by the minister were a two-storey medical block, mental health block, NHIS block, orthopaedic block, oxygen plant and intensive care unit, while projects inspected were a- two storey general out-patient block, CT-scan block, one storey amenity block, orthopaedic theatre among others still undergoing construction.
Chukwu, who was impressed by the physical development and environmental cleanliness of the hospital, declared that the health sector in the country is not performing badly as being castigated; saying if proper assessment is conducted now among all the sectors, health would come out in third position.