Despite the prevalence of brain drain syndrome in Nigeria that is now afflicting the country’s health sector, a health practitioner, Dr. Uche Rowland Ojinmah, President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has claimed that many skilled doctors in the nation remain without jobs. Dr. Ojinmah, during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme on Wednesday, expressed his concern over the drove of Nigerian medical practitioners leaving the nation in search of better pastures abroad.
Given the current exodus of physicians and the continued unemployment of others, he said there has been a narrative of a one-for-one replacement initiative which is said to be implemented as soon as possible. However, little progress has been made on the policy despite it having been discussed for months. Dr. Ojinmah issued a call of action to the government of Nigeria, urging them to find a solution to the mounting issue and providing work and fair pay for doctors who are now unemployed.
Policy proposed by the National Assembly is discriminatory.
While discussing the factors driving the exodus of medical professionals, he said that the ratio is especially high in war-torn rural regions. He noted that whereas one physician may serve a population of 9,000 in a rural location, that number might be closer to 20,000 in areas where banditry and terrorism are prevalent. Remember that Hon. Ganiyu Johnson, a lawmaker from Lagos, proposed a bill to require Nigerian doctors to complete a five-year practice in Nigeria before receiving their full practicing license? The House of Representatives had approved the measure after its second reading.
However, the president of the NMA said that the House’s reasoning in favor of the measure is flawed, claiming that the policy proposed by the National Assembly is discriminatory. In his continued statement “If everybody is being subsidized, you can not in a discriminatory manner go down to a few people. The most essential thing to remember is that physicians are important in the same way that other people who work in healthcare are important, and the remedy is to make them feel like they deserve it,” he added.
Most hospitals in the country lack necessary medical equipment.
As highlighted, the pull forces fueling the physicians’ droves are systems located overseas that entice the doctors and are outside the country’s control. While the push factors are the traits inside the country’s outreach that are pushing doctors out. Poverty, according to the NMA president, is the primary motivator. For example, a freshly educated doctor in the UK makes about £40,000 (approximately N22m at the official exchange rate) per year, but those in Nigeria earn between N3 million and N3.6 million. According to Dr. Ojinmah, a new doctor in Nigeria earns in a year what a new doctor in the United Kingdom earns in just a month.
He also condemned Nigeria’s tax policy, saying it unfairly burdened physicians and reduced them to the status of ordinary citizens with no regard. The doctor also voiced concerns about the unsafe environment, saying that doctors were a particular target of crooks. The head of the Nigerian Medical Association has said that most hospitals in the country lack the necessary medical equipment. Over the previous eight years, at least 13,609 doctors from Nigeria moved to the United Kingdom, placing them third in the world after Pakistan and India.
The health sector may collapse if immediate action is not taken.
In addition, the ratio of physicians to patients in Nigeria is one doctor for every 5000 people, which is far higher than the one doctor for every 600 people suggested by the World Health Organization. Officials are flummoxed by this looming problem and have no effective strategy to address it comprehensively. To this end, the NMA has expressed grave worry that the health sector may collapse if immediate action is not done to stem the loss of talent in the industry. The organization further noted that if the current trend of physicians leaving the nation continues, it may become necessary to recruit medical professionals from other countries in the future.