The decision by the Lagos State Government to establish a University of Health and Medical Sciences is commendable, although it falls short of addressing the elephant in the room. According to Governor Sanwolu, the initiative is aimed at significantly increasing the production of healthcare workers throughout the year. While it is imperative, given the horrible doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:10,000, to increase the production of health workers, the elephant in the room is our inability to retain top medical talent.
In my view, the most pressing challenge confronting our dear state is twofold. The first is how to retain the best and most experienced medical staff in service of the state. The second is the infrastructural decay that has plagued our healthcare service. This decay includes but is not limited to, a lack of equipment, diagnostic care, and adequate support services for our doctors.
For instance, data from the development research and project center reveal that between 2015 and 2022 alone, over 5,000 doctors have migrated to the UK. To stem this tide, we must admit the failure of health system leadership and recognize health care service delivery as the bedrock of socio-economic development. No country or state can prosper without healthy citizens, which is why improving our health system should be considered an emergency.
Hence, we must improve the welfare and working conditions of healthcare providers. Many of the health workers that I interact with are overworked and underpaid and feel underappreciated by society. This must change. We must not only significantly improve the remuneration of these workers but equally improve their working conditions and environment. This means that we must invest in the machines, equipment, and tools to improve the quality of healthcare delivery. Workers should also have access to mortgage facilities and other cheap long-term credit, insurance, and basic convenience.
Furthermore, the government should invest in continuous human capital development by ensuring that our healthcare workers acquire new skills and capabilities by exposing them to regular training, exchange programs, and collaborations. This will also require a massive upgrade of our teaching hospitals and critical investments across various colleges of medicine and nursing schools.
More importantly, the Lagos state government must increase the budgetary allocation for the healthcare sector from an average of 8% over the last few years to 15%. This increased spending will make more funding available to train more health workers, to improve their welfare, and to make necessary investments in the healthcare system. Without such improved funding, the health sector will continue to struggle, and health workers will leave in droves in search of better working conditions.
To keep medical talent, we must demonstrate that we value their offerings and contributions. And the only way to demonstrate a recognition of that value is to make the right investment in these talents and their working environment. Otherwise, we will expend scarce resources training doctors and nurses for European countries.