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Nigeria at loss of medical practitioners

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By Mercy Kelani

Brain drain has left Nigeria with 4.7 percent of health workers.

A recent report gathered by the UK government has revealed that over 13,500 Nigerian health care workers have been granted working visas in the past year, ranking second after India that has a record of over 42,000. As a result of the high percentage of health personnel leaving the country for the UK, Nigerian hospitals have been left to suffer from insufficient doctors. The percentage of Nigerians whose visas were granted for the ‘Skilled Worker-Health & Care’ is 14 percent, while India, with the highest percentage, has 45 percent.

Asides health workers leaving the country, there are also many other Nigerians who have left the country for the UK in order to find better jobs. In June 2022, 15,772 of the worker visas that were granted were made up of Nigerians, which shows an increase of 303 percent in comparison to the one granted in 2019, when 3,918 Nigerians were granted worker visas. The UK Home Office, in their report, gathered that worker visa grants has increased by 96 percent, and now represent 67 percent of all work visas.

Medical officials leave 17 tertiary health institutions in Nigeria.

The report further asserted that the increased percent of all work visas now has over 87,200 grants of skilled worker visas and an additional 96,200 grants of skilled workers; Health and Care visas. There are three top nationals that are granted skilled worker visas, they are Indians, accounting for 39 percent, the United States nationals with 6 percent, and South Africans with 4 percent. Ever since the introduction of grants for skilled worker visas in December 2020, it has grown every quarter and now represents more than half of all work visas granted in the previous year.

Nigerians, including the Vice President of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo, has decried the massive withdrawal of health workers from the country. The Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MIDCAN), in January 2022, expressed unhappiness over the exit of more than 100 of its members in 2021, as they leave the country. The MIDCAN President, Victor Makanjuola, in a briefing at Abuja, revealed that medical officials who travelled out of the country, left the services of 17 tertiary health institutions in the country.

In 2017, 88% of doctors sought work opportunities abroad.

Makanjuola describe the exodus of medical and dental consultants to developed countries as disruptions to the healthcare ecosystem of the country. In 2017, a survey by the Nigerian Polling organization (NOIPolls) in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch, stated that in that year, over 88 percent of medical doctors in Nigeria were seeking work opportunities abroad. Also, in contrast to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) minimum recommended ratio of 1:400-600, Nigeria recorded a doctor-patient ratio of 1:2,753, in 2020.

Many factors have been recorded as causes for the migration of medical practitioners to more developed countries, some of which include lack of job satisfaction, poor remuneration, and Insecurity. At the Maiden NMA Annual Lecture Series in Abuja, themed ‘Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin evil in Nigeria’s Health System,’ the president of the association lamented that the brain drain has left Nigeria with only 4.7 percent of its medical specialists to render healthcare services to the population.

Brain drain will lead to health inequity – NMA President.

Professor Innocent Ujah emphasized that the loss of medical practitioners in the country causes more damage to the already deteriorating health care resources in a developing country like Nigeria, thereby creating more room for health inequities across the world. Health inequity is birthed as a result of the migration of health care workers from developing countries to already developed countries like the UK, Europe, causing a scarcity of skilled health workers where it is needed the most.


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