Exodus of Nigerian medical experts

The water kept dropping here and there from a leaking roof. Our reference here is to the disturbing and massive instances of Nigerian medical experts leaving the shores of the country on an alarmingly regular basis. To say the least, this dismal situation is worrisome.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of doctors in Nigeria plummeted from 83,565 in 2016 to 74,543 in 2018. Nigeria lost about 9,000 of its doctors to the United Kingdom, Canada, and other countries between 2016 and 2018. It is believed that in the United States of America, of every 10 black medical experts, 8 of them will be from Nigeria.

The problem of human capacity development in the health sector of Nigeria has become a recurring decimal. The ugly situation has become like a bad ulcer giving rise to the increasing number of medical experts emigrating out of the country on a daily basis.

This mass exodus of these medical doctors, nurses, and other paramedical personnel from Nigeria other developed countries can be traced to features like the harsh working conditions, poor remuneration, deteriorating facilities, insecurity, and the attendant harsh economic realities. It is a pity that the situation of the country has made many medical experts not see, any longer a bright future within the shores of Nigeria. This is owed to the fact that the working conditions and environments in our hospitals and clinics are pathetic and insufferable.

The ugly situation has become like a bad ulcer giving rise to the increasing number of medical experts emigrating out of the country on a daily basis

Available evidence shows that 4,528 doctors moved to the United Kingdom in six years. Furthermore, figures released in February 2018 by the British government indicate that no fewer than 5,405 Nigerian- trained doctors and nurses are currently working with the British National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. This means that medical personnel of Nigerian origin constitute 3.9 per cent of the 137,000 foreign staff members out of 202 nationalities working alongside British doctors and nurses.

It is unfortunate because Nigeria does not have enough medical doctors to serve the population. Available statistics show that the country has a doctor/patient ratio of 1:6000 and in some areas, it could be worse with 1:10,000; against the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients (1:600). So, it is obvious that for every 1000 people or patients, there is a shortage of 10 doctors.

Although and surprisingly enough, much of the immediate foregoing has been contradicted who declared rather outlandishly that the country has surplus medical doctors. But the reality is clearly otherwise.

Indeed, there is a deficit of doctors in this country to serve the over 200 million population. This means a doctor in Nigeria is seeing 10 times the number of patients he is supposed to see. In the UK, it is 2.8 doctors to 1000 patients while in Nigeria it is 0.2 doctors to 1000 patients. It is really unfortunate.

Very sadly, there has been no indication that the country’s leadership is willing to address the severe shortfall as government officials resort to medical tourism. Indeed, most of the nation’s leaders, including the president, fly abroad routinely for treatment of every ailment-no matter how minimal. This is unacceptable. It is important to note here that we once boasted of having one of the best teaching hospitals in the Commonwealth.

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In 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented that the country had been losing N400 billion yearly to medical tourism. This attests to the government’s inability to address the various health challenges; hence validating some of the excuses for the exodus of medical experts to other countries and perceptions that government at all levels in the country are not interested in the welfare and health of the citizens.

The indifference of Nigerian leaders to address health sector challenge, discounts the fact that the exodus of medical experts is at the expense of the lives of Nigerians. This is a paradox rolled into a tragedy. The

more doctors leave this country, the higher the maternal and child deaths as well as very low life-span and expectancy.

Based on the brain drain that has bedevilled the sector, it is apparent that trained health professionals are needed in every part of the world. When healthcare professionals lack opportunities for professional development; lack enabling environment to function; cannot fully use their skills and find that the quality of their lives is woeful, compared to their peers in more advanced countries, they have little choice but to flee abroad for greener pastures.

So, until Nigeria places the highest premium on healthcare, the exodus of doctors will not end. Therefore, we demand the government to take healthcare seriously and make it a priority in view of its critical importance to the lives of Nigerians.

In fact, healthcare requires remarkable investment, not just increased funding. The higher investment will certainly translate to more remuneration for health workers, increased training opportunities for doctors, availability of equipment and other infrastructural facilities.

And indeed, better political commitment to healthcare; better appreciation of the worth of medical personnel, along with better and competitive wages; better working conditions and inspiring work environment; better security and access to social amenities; attractive and globally respected postgraduate training programmes for health

workers will not only stabilise the healthcare delivery system, it will stop the current brain drain.

Our leaders should stop their lamentation. Rather they should act now to reverse the ugly trend of Nigerian doctors trooping abroad in search of greener pastures.

Nigerians expect their president who has spent so much time in the United Kingdom on health grounds, to execute the change he promised on foreign medical tourism when he assumed office in 2015.Sadly enough the reality has been different since Buhari and other Nigerian leaders have turned medical tourism into a shameless past- time. Therefore, it must be said here that since the President and other government officials have a firsthand experience of the superlative medical facilities in other countries; it should not be too difficult for our leaders cum-medical tourists to replicate same in Nigeria here. Necessity and their respective self-worth(s) demand no less.

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