Amidst this ugly trend, the country still loses hundreds of doctors annually to brain drain, a large number of them to the United Kingdom (UK).
The mass exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses, has been a burning issue in the country. Recall that earlier this year, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) disclosed that more than 100 of its members left the country within the last 24 months.
According to health officials, at least 5,600 Nigerian medical doctors have migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) in the last eight years.
The President of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, Uche Rowland, reported the figure at a symposium last week to discuss the brain drain in Nigeria’s health sector and its implications on health service delivery.
Rowland blamed poor funding of the health sector as one of the reasons professionals are leaving the country, noting that the Nigerian government allocated less than five per cent of its annual budget to the health sector.
“The government has its priorities, but we need to balance the equation and get serious about health investment,” he had said.
Expressing his reservation about the precarious situation of Nigeria’s moribund health sector, Dr Robsam Ohayi, an associate professor who doubles as the Chief Consultant Pathologist at Enugu State University Teaching Hospital and the Dean of the Faculty of Basic Clinical Sciences Enugu State University College of Medicine, Parklane, Enugu, in a media chat told DAILY POST that the future is grimmer than hopelessness.
Ohayi described the situation in the nation’s health sector as bleak. He painted a grim picture of the situational environment of the medical practitioners in the country, lamenting that many specialist doctors are moving in droves to foreign countries.
“Well, the situation is grim, very grim, to say the least. As I speak to you now, from various departments in our hospital, several doctors from almost all the specialists have left the country. A whole lot of people leave for various places. Some left for Asia, and some left for the UK.
“It is more startling because even very senior people, very senior consultants, have left the system. And as those senior consultants are leaving or have left, even the students we are training and bringing out and graduating, the most they do these days is to do housemanship, and after housemanship, they leave,” he said.
He added that, “I have a whole lot of students who are very close to me, who I trained, who are now in the UK. From my department, at least two people have left, out of a paltry four of us. So it is a very dangerous situation.”
The Chief Consultant Pathologist went further to blame the government (Federal and State) and policies for the downturn being experienced in the health sector, noting that many factors, such as insecurity, economy and infrastructure, can lead one to relocate abroad.
According to him, the government has failed to address these issues, including the case of insecurity and other systemic failures that trigger people to seek better opportunities abroad.
“Well, the blame, honestly, without sounding to be judgemental, I put the blame squarely on the government and policies. There is no policy that we can hold on to. The government has not cared for the ordinary people, for the people on ordinary day-to-day work in the country. So the government is to blame.
“Now, when we often talk about brain drain in the medical profession, people want to think that people are leaving for economic purposes only; it is a lie. Some people are running away from this country because of insecurity; some are running away from this country because they don’t feel safe. Some people are running away from this country because of systemic failures. They say, how do I raise my children in a place like this? So it is not totally economical.
“So the government has not gotten security right, the government has not gotten infrastructure right, the government has not gotten the economy right, so these are some of the few factors that are chasing people away from this country. So I blame the government,” he said.
Recounting the consequences of brain drain in the health sector, the renowned pathologist sought the help of the press. He said that the present state of the health sector is entirely bleak.
“I think the press should also help us. The press can visit our clinics on a typical day to count the number of doctors in the clinic and then to count the number of patients waiting for these doctors.
“And as I speak to you, people come to the clinic at 7 am, and sometimes they don’t leave until 5 pm. Ok, so what does this do? It worsens their health because the anxiety alone of waiting to see the doctor is pumping adrenaline into their system. They are not even rested. By the time you come to the point of even giving care, they would have degenerated.
“If you go to a typical clinic, a doctor or unit will have over a hundred patients to be seen in one day. When abroad, people who work in the NHS and other places can have few patients to see.
“You can see how bad it is for the medical practitioner and the patient. And then, when you extrapolate it to what it does to the economy.
Ok, say, this man who comes to the hospital and spends the whole day in the hospital, he is supposed to be a businessman, he is supposed to be a civil servant, a farmer. On such a day, he does not go to work; he makes no economic activity. He contributes to nothing, either to himself or to society. So it is a hopeless situation,” he lamented.