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Task shifting policy, a stop gap for inadequate health manpower —FG

The Federal Government has enjoined state and local governments to imbibe its task sharing policy, describing it as an appropriate intervention in view of the grossly inadequate manpower in Nigerian health sector.

Director and Head, Reproductive Health (RH) Division, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Kayode Afolabi speaking at the National Task Shifting Policy Dissemination in Ibadan, stated that this policy must be seen as a continuous process until Nigeria’s human resources in health optimally meets its demand.

It was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with Oyo State Ministry of health and Pathfinder International Nigeria.

Afolabi declared that a major barrier of access to essential health care services in Nigeria is shortage and inequitable distribution of health workers, adding the National Task Shifting and Task Sharing Policy is a major strategy to scaling up access to effective and evidence-based essential health services in Nigeria.

According to him, “Task shifting involves the rational redistribution of tasks among health workforce teams and movement of specific tasks, where appropriate, from highly qualified health workers to health workers with shorter training and fewer qualifications in order to make more efficient use of the available human resources for health.

Afolabi remarking that “The goal of task shifting or sharing is to get the right workers with the right skills in the right places doing the right things”, said a number of operational researches which supported the prospects of the Task Sharing policy, especially in family planning (FP) had been conducted in Nigeria.

According to him, “before the advent of task shifting or sharing, the Community Health Extension officers (CHEWs) were not allowed to provide injectable contraceptives. But with this policy, they will be able to do so and this will ensure improved access to injectable contraceptives.

“There is evidence to show that over 30 per cent of women who have unmet contraceptive need indicated their willingness to adopt injectables. The same thing applies to IUDs & Implants which currently are witnessing increased acceptability and uptake in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Afolabi declared that Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate was a concern and as such the need to critically look into human resources given that in many remote areas, CHEWs performs lifesaving procedures in many primary health care centres.

He assured also that World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation was that countries with gaps in human resources embrace task shifting or sharing policy.

Dr Habeeb Salami, Programme Manager, FP/RH for Pathfinder International, stated that levels of task shifting or sharing was already operational in the health sector, adding that it was a stop gap measure to ensure people in rural areas have improved access to quality health care.

According to Salami, “it is hoped that states governments will quickly look into the policy and adopt it so that we have lees people dying unnecessarily because there are no healthcare workers to provide services for them.”

The state’s Health Commissioner, Dr Azeez Adeduntan impressed by impart of task shifting or sharing policy in other countries stated that a committee would be established in the state to assess its workability in improving healthcare services.

Adeduntan, however, reiterated intensified training to prevent the task shifting or sharing policy becoming determent to health.