From Abel Leonard, Lafia

 

 

In recent years, Nasarawa State has grappled with growing crisis in its healthcare sector, marked by persistent calls for the government to address pressing issues such as health workers’ welfare, staff shortages, and inadequate equipment in state-owned medical facilities. 

The consequences of this neglect have become tragically apparent with the recent mass resignation of health workers and the subsequent loss of lives among dedicated nurses. Between February and April this year, eight nurses paid the ultimate price due to the overwhelming workload and unfavourable working conditions.

“The situation has become dire,” Nurse Aisha, one of the frontline workers, who chose to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, lamented, adding that “we are stretched thin, both physically and emotionally, trying to meet the healthcare needs of our community.”

Health, as universally acknowledged, is a fundamental pillar of any society. Yet, in Nasarawa State, the cracks in the system have widened, leading to a cascade of resignations among clinical staff, including doctors, nurses, and pharmacists.

Sunday Sun reports that the exodus, which began in 2021, reached a tipping point early this year, leaving many health facilities understaffed and ill-equipped to handle the influx of patients.

“We are not leaving our jobs out of choice,” Dr Bello, who recently tendered his resignation, said, adding: “But we can no longer turn a blind eye to the systemic issues that have plagued our healthcare system for far too long.”

When Sunday Sun visited some health facilities in the state, including those at Akwanga, Doma, Nasarawa Eggon General Hospital, as well as the Specialist Hospital Lafia, which recorded the exit of over 20 doctors in two days in March this year, it was observed that some of the facilities have scaled-down services in most of the units due to non-availability of health workers The repercussions of this crisis are felt keenly by patients, who now endure long waits and scaled-down services at state-owned hospitals. At the Outpatient Departments of facilities across the state, large crowd gather, hoping for a chance to access much-needed care.

“I’ve been here since dawn. But there are simply not enough hands to attend to everyone. It breaks my heart to see my fellow citizens suffer like this,” Mrs Abigail, a mother of three, said.

The situation has reached a critical juncture, demanding urgent intervention from the government and stakeholders alike. Without decisive action to address the root causes of this crisis, the health and well-being of Nasarawa’s populace hang in the balance.

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Larai Anthony and Dr Alade, among the weary ranks of health workers, painted a grim picture of the toll the manpower shortage is taking on their well-being, describing it as increasingly unbearable.

Dr Molokwu Ikechukwu, the Medical Superintendent of Doma General Hospital, shared these concerns, warning of further deterioration unless urgent action is taken.

He stressed the critical need for the state government to devise an exit replacement strategy and prioritize the welfare of health workers, a sentiment echoed by many in the medical community.

Mr Avre Attah, state chairman of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, acknowledged the recent strides made with the commencement of hazard allowance payments, but underscored that much remains to be done.

Despite this long-awaited development, health workers in the state have continued to face stagnation in their career progression, a situation that has only exacerbated the strain on an already overstretched workforce, he added.

“The toll of the manpower shortage is not merely anecdotal; it is measured in lives lost. Eight nurses, including the recent casualty, Mrs Fatima Nuhu from Specialist Hospital Lafia, have succumbed to the relentless pressures of their duties.

“Their tragic deaths serve as stark reminders of the urgent need for action to alleviate the burden placed on frontline workers,” he said.

For Hajiya Fauziyat Hamza, the loss of her sister underscored the human cost of the healthcare crisis.

She recounted her sister’s final moments, marked by despair and disillusionment, a poignant testament to the toll that poor working conditions exact on those tasked with caring for others.

Dr Edego Egba, the state Chief Medical Director of Hospitals Management Board, acknowledged the gravity of the situation, revealing that efforts are underway to address the staffing shortfall.

“A memo has been submitted to the state government, approval has been given and we are now  recruiting additional health workers – a step in the right direction, albeit one that must be swiftly followed by concrete action,” Edego said.

Yet, amidst the despair, there remains a glimmer of hope, a collective belief that health is indeed wealth, and that the Nasarawa State government must realign its priorities accordingly.

The common refrain echoe throughout the corridors of hospitals and the hearts of citizens alike is: without robust investment in healthcare, the very foundation of society is at risk of crumbling.


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