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Headline Health News Nigeria Special Report

Checking Mass Exodus of Medical Doctors

Medical doctors, without question, play a key role in maintaining and sustaining the health of a country’s human resources.

They live a rigid and structured lifestyle at university, which they carry over into their professional work.

Medical doctors, like security professionals, act as investigators, asking questions based on symptoms and test results to arrive at a valid diagnosis. Despite the restrictive conditions under which they work, doctors are expected to be faultless, especially regarding making diagnoses. They are at the front lines when there is an outbreak or pandemic, as is with COVID-19 that is ravaging the world.

Unfortunately, the nation’s health sector has become such a challenge that medical doctors are fleeing at an alarming rate due to tough working conditions, low pay, decaying facilities, insecurity, and hard economic realities.

Strike by resident doctors

These conditions may have contributed to the present ongoing strike by resident doctors, causing many to depart in search of greener pastures elsewhere. They have persistently refused to resume work so as to reopen negotiations with the federal government.

According to a report by the British government in 2018, over 5,400 Nigerian-trained doctors and nurses currently working with the British National Health Service, accounting for about 4% of all foreign workers in the UK in that sector.

An average of 12 Nigerian medical doctors get registered in the United Kingdom every week, according to a report by Africa Check, a fact-checking website.

It is still clear that Nigeria lacks adequate medical doctors to service its population. According to available figures, the country has a doctor/patient ratio of one doctor to 6000, and in some locations, the ratio may be as high as one doctor to 10,000, compared to the World Health Organization’s recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients. It has become clear that there is a scarcity of 10 doctors for every 1000 persons or patients.

Nigeria has a doctor shortage

Nigeria has a doctor shortage for its over 200 million population because a doctor ‘sees’ ten times the number of patients he is meant to ‘see.’ It is also concerning that many wealthy people seek medical treatment outside the country, causing Nigeria to lose about N400 billion each year to medical tourism.

This mass exodus at this challenging time is at the expense of the lives of the less privileged, because as more doctors continue to leave, the higher maternal and child deaths, as well as low life-spa.

Based on global challenges that have bedevilled the health sector because of the current COVID 19 pandemic, qualified medical health professionals are needed now more than ever.

And until proper attention is given to the development of healthcare in Nigeria, the exodus of Medical Doctors will not end. This is despite that the health sector is in the concurrent list of Nigeria.

Healthcare a major priority

Government at all levels must take healthcare seriously and make it a major priority in view of its importance to the lives of citizens, which can translate to a healthier, strong and virile workforce, translating to economic growth.

Healthcare requires remarkable investment, not just increased funding. Therefore, government and stakeholders should make concerted efforts to improve healthcare services, increase budgetary for the sector and ensure that funds are properly managed to save health infrastructure and personnel. Above all, there should be a political commitment to improve the working conditions and environment of medical health workers; better security to reduce the mass exodus of Nigerian medical doctors.

Writing by Nehemiah Aneni, editing by Saadatu Albashir