Tension is rising among members of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, who are threatening a showdown with the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria over the new guidelines for verification of certificates.
Nurses and midwives in the country had earlier in the week lamented the deactivation of the NMCN verification portal since December 2023.
The nurses, who spoke with our correspondent in separate interviews, alleged that the deactivation of the portal by the council was an attempt to hinder their freedom to pursue career opportunities abroad.
They also said it was not unconnected to the plan of the Federal Government to reduce the number of health workers travelling out of the country to seek greener pastures.
The NMCN is the only legal, administrative, corporate, and statutory body charged with performing specific functions on behalf of the Federal Government to ensure the delivery of safe and effective nursing and midwifery care to the public through quality education and best practices.
The council is mandated by law to regulate the standards of nursing and midwifery education and practice in Nigeria and to review such standards from time to time to meet the changing health needs of society.
In 2023, the NANNM said over 75,000 nurses and midwives left the country in five years to seek greener pastures.
It decried the insecurity in the country, particularly the rising cases of kidnap of its members for ransom, and violence against its members at their workplace while discharging their duties.
The President of the association, Michael Nnachi, had said, “As a result of poor wages and lack of decent work environments, over 75,000 nurses and midwives have emigrated from Nigeria within five years.
“Shortage of nurses and midwives, especially in certain areas of specialisation and geographic regions, the increased rates of attrition and a chronic shortage of nursing personnel in the country increased workloads on nurses without an equivalent compensation, exposing them to more health hazards and compromising the quality of healthcare delivery.”
The mass exodus of nurses has worsened an ongoing shortage of health workers, and poses significant threats to the healthcare delivery system, leading to limited access to care for many people.
Nnachi stated that the ongoing brain drain was affecting the workforce in the health sector.
He said, “It is overstretching nurses who are not even well-paid or well-compensated. It is overstretching the workforce. Look at the way the country is, there is insecurity. Prices of commodities have gone up in the market, and you are earning a salary that has remained stagnant all this while. So, how can you cope economically?”
The NMCN issued a memo dated February 7, 2024, revising the guidelines for requesting verification of certificates for nurses and midwives.
The NMCN said eligible applicants must have a minimum of two years post-qualification experience from the date of issuance of the permanent practicing licence.
The memo was addressed to all state ministries of Health, university teaching hospitals, specialist and federal medical centres, NANNM headquarters, universities offering nursing programmes, colleges of nursing sciences, schools of nursing and midwifery, all post-basic nursing programmes, and all nursing and midwifery councils’ zonal offices.
The memo signed by the Registrar of the council, Dr Faruk Abubakar, read in part, “A refundable fee per application shall be paid for verification to foreign boards of nursing as specified on the portal. This shall cover the cost of courier services to the applicant’s institution(s) of training, place of work, and foreign board.
“Eligible applicants must have a minimum of two years post qualification experience from the date of issuance of the permanent practicing licence. Any application with a provisional licence shall be rejected outright.
“The council shall request a letter of good standing from the chief executive officer of the applicant’s place(s) of work and the last nursing training institution attended and responses on these shall be addressed directly to the Registrar/CEO, NMCN. Please note that the council shall not accept such letter(s) through the applicant.”
The council also stated that applicants must have active practicing licences with a minimum of six months to the expiration date, and processing of verification applications would take a minimum of six months.
It added that the implementation of the guidelines takes effect from March 1, 2024.