Insecurity of health workers worries stakeholders

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Doctors and nurses in a hospital assisting sick patients
Doctors and nurses in a Nigerian hospital

By Felicia Imohimi

Stakeholders in the health sector on Thursday listed insecurity of hospitals and medical workers as the major threat to healthcare delivery in the country.

They urged governments and private sector to invest in enhanced security for medical and health workers to curb the spate of kidnappings, killings of health workers in the country.

The health stakeholders include Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

Dr Friday Omolei, the Chairman, National Committee on Security of Medical Doctors spoke on behalf of stakeholders at a joint news conference in Abuja.

The news conference was organised by Ethic Resource Centre Nigeria, an NGO in collaboration with security agencies and the health workers on the implementation of the Medics Security Joint Action Project.

Omolei said the devastating consequences of insecurity of hospitals and medical workers posed a threat to healthcare services, and called for investment of upgrading of hospital infrastructure.

He said investment in upgrading hospital infrastructure, equipments and materials would be futile if workers were not sufficiently safe and secure to operate them.

He attributed series of attacks on health workers or patients on lack of emergency protocols in hospitals across the country.

“Nigeria is experiencing a complex interplay of security challenges that include terrorism, militancy, kidnapping, cultism, armed robbery, communal clashes, socio-economic and political tensions.

“The time for all stakeholders to come together and invest in enhanced security of medical and health workers is now!

“Stakeholders must find time and resources to install preventive initiatives. Huge amount of money is spent when medical workers are kidnapped. It makes sense to make necessary investments to stop the trend of medical workers being target of choice.

“It is no longer news that security and safety protocols of most hospitals in Nigeria are also being breached by criminals.

“The media have reported stories of new born babies being stolen from hospitals among others.

“Doctors and nurses are sometimes molested by angry people who lost their loved ones,’’ he said.

Omolei reaffirmed that Chief Medical Directors, doctors on missions, pharmacists, dentists, nurses, primary health workers had been kidnapped and sometimes killed in recent past while vaccination programmes were compromised.

He further recalled instances were medical and health workers and doctors on call abandoned their duty posts in hospitals to protest on the street, requesting governments to respond to the crisis and take proactive measures.

He decried that Primary Healthcare Centres were being shut down in zones affected by terrorism, insurgency and militancy.

Omolei, who described the menace as trending in the sector, said the security challenge had made access to healthcare harder as medical workers and their families often time relocate from insurgency and kidnap prone communities to safer areas.

He said that due to the devastating consequences of the challenge, pregnant women do not receive required medical care thereby worsening maternal, neonatal, under five mortality ratios and other healthcare indices.

According to him, there is urgent need for all stakeholders to join forces and prioritise investment on the security and safety of health workers to ensure quality and efficient healthcare.

Other stakeholders present at the meeting are Health Officers Registration Board of Nigeria, Medical and Health Workers Union, Radiographers Association of Nigeria, Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria and Radiographers Registration Board of Nigeria.

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