Minister of State for Health, Dr Tunji Alausa, on Thursday, announced speedy waivers for tertiary hospitals, including federal medical centres nationwide, to recruit additional health workers in an effort to address the existing shortage of human resources in the health sector.
Dr Alausa, who made the disclosure while addressing newsmen during a facility tour of the University College Hospital (UCH), said a committee had been set up at the Federal Ministry of Health to approve these waivers for quicker responses so that funds could be made available for the payment of recruited staff.
He said this was in response to complaints by the Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of these hospitals about the bottleneck in getting waivers to recruit health workers to fill existing vacancies in their respective health facilities.
Dr Alusa, however, said the Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of these hospitals will be held accountable if, after the reverse audit process, the waiver given does not match the people that had been recruited.
According to him, “Mr President saw the need for the waivers to recruit for health care; he saw the need that the process needs to be more streamlined and simplified, and that was why he gave the approval to the Ministry to start issuing the waivers.
“The way the waivers work is that the hospitals will generate the number of staff that they need; they will send it. Historically, that will go to the Ministry of Health and then the Head of Service, where they will do some checks and balances, what we call the establishment roll, what is budgeted for, and so on.
“Now, we have the waiver committee that includes the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammed Ali Pate; the Minister of State for Health and Social Welfare, Dr Tunji Alausa; the Permanent Secretary of the Health Ministry; and two directors in the Health Ministry.
“We meet to decide on it, and once everything is verified, we will approve the waiver, and it goes through the usual process at the budget office, where the funds will be made available.
“It has started; it is something that took effect in January. We will be reviewing the waivers as they come; there won’t be any delay in the review. They will be passed on quickly.”
The minister said the federal government was also working on improving infrastructure and equipping tertiary hospitals nationwide.
“We have a significant amount of money put in the budget to support these hospitals; already, a memo has been sent to submit their priority needs. We will go with the most-priority project first. By the next budget, we will be able to do more. We are also looking around to see how we can mobilise more funds for the healthcare sector.”
Chief Medical Director (CMD) of University College Hospital, Professor Jesse Otegbayo, in a reaction, said the ease of getting a waiver was something all CMDs in the country have been yearning for, and due to the bureaucratic bottleneck of the process, it is delayed for months and sometimes years.
“It has affected us as institutions that render essential services, particularly the health sector. Now we know that we can get waivers on time and replace health care staff on time, and that will enhance our services to the teaming population of our patients and Nigerians in general.
“With the exodus of health workers, we have not been able to keep up; our staff was overworked, and of course, they also complain of underpayment. So, it means that one person is doing the work of probably two or three persons. So, it is not really going down well with our staff, but we are just encouraging them, especially with the promises that we got from the minister and the presidency that things will get better with time.”