Osahon Enabulele, the president of the World Medical Association (WMA), on September 28, 2023, revealed that for Nigeria to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of ratio of doctors to patients, the country needed to have not less than 250,000 medical doctors employed. Osahon was speaking as a guest speaker at the public lecture organised by the Federated Chapel of the Edo Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Benin City.
He lamented that Nigeria had less than 100,000 doctors, a figure he said was grossly inadequate to meet the doctors-patients ratio. According to him, the present situation by international standards requires a doctor to be assigned to less than 600 patients. But in Nigeria case, a doctor attends to over 3,000. He said that Nigeria needs over 250,000 doctors to cope with the current reality. “There is less than 100,000 registered doctors in Nigeria, let’s say it is 98,000 doctors according to the last update,” he said.
Problems facing the healthcare system in Nigeria.
Enabulele bemoaned that out of these 98,000, only 50,000 are actually practicing in Nigeria. The WMA president stressed that for Nigeria to have good healthcare system, there must be political commitment by the Nigerian leaders to meet the Abuja Declaration of dedicating 15 percent of its budget to healthcare provision. He decried how political leaders in the country traveled abroad to queue up before seeing less qualified doctors to check blood pressure they could conveniently do in Nigeria.
However, he identified the lack of funds, inadequate infrastructure, unemployment, workplace conditions, remuneration, brain drain, economy, inflation and ineffective healthcare, among others, as problems currently facing Nigeria health system. “Because of these problems, senior doctors and consultants are moving out of Nigeria in droves because of greater remuneration”. He remarked that this has resulted in low quality of healthcare delivery in the country. Concerned citizens have even raised the alarm on how medical practitioners are relocating overseas for greener pastures.
Medical practitioners have been relocating from Nigeria for years.
In a particular instance, as of January 2023, the management of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) announced that more than 150 nurses resigned their appointments with the tertiary hospital within the last three years. The Chief Medical Director of LASUTH, Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo, said this during a news conference in Lagos. He said that the situation arose as a result of health workers relocating abroad to practice. Of course, this is the result of the brain drain that the medical sector has experienced for years.
Similarly, approximately five years ago, Shehu Liberty, a lecturer at the University of Maiduguri, had on January 31, 2018 written an open letter on his Facebook wall to Former President Muhammadu Buhari, pleading with him to make an effort to halt the “mass exodus” of qualified doctors out of the country. He said that the doctors seemed to have made up their minds to leave the country in spite of his attempt to persuade them to stay.
A health service commission should be established.
Meanwhile, Enabulele called for improved political commitment, empowered healthcare work, improved working conditions, recognition of value and professional work of the medical practitioners, stopping medical tourism for political leaders, and making wages to be competitive to change the narrative in the health sector. He said that the Nigerian government must create better living conditions for the people including the medical profession. He noted that a lot of people still want to come back home when the country is better. “There is a need to establish a health service commission that would better administer the health system, drive medical manpower, training, best human resource, and develop plan among others,” he remarked.
World Medical Association: Website