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Nigeria battles brain drain, medical tourism

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By Abraham Adekunle

NMLSD to convene on how to tackle these pressing challenges.

In a bid to address the persistent challenges of brain drain and medical tourism in Nigeria, the Nigerian Medical Laboratory Scientists in Diaspora (NMLSD) is gearing up to host a landmark conference. This initiative comes at a crucial time when the country’s healthcare sector grapples with issues ranging from inadequate infrastructure to the flight of skilled professionals seeking opportunities abroad. Dr. Mojeed Shittu, the President of NMLSD, highlighted the pressing factors contributing to the prevalence of medical tourism in Nigeria.

These include a lack of robust infrastructure, insufficient equipment, and a dearth of platforms for continuous professional development for medical personnel. These challenges have fuelled a mass exodus of healthcare professionals, undermining the capacity of the healthcare system to meet the needs of the population effectively. Addressing the media in Abuja, Dr. Shittu emphasized the importance of strategic interventions to reverse the brain drain trend and transform it into a brain gain for Nigeria. He stressed that rather than bemoaning the departure of skilled professionals, the Nigerian government should capitalize on the expertise of medical laboratory scientists both at home and abroad to strengthen domestic healthcare services.

Shittu emphasizes healthcare improvements in Nigeria.

“To improve healthcare in Nigeria,” Dr. Shittu stated, “the government must prioritize investments in infrastructure, equipment, and continuous professional development for medical laboratory scientists.” While enticing professionals abroad to return may pose challenges, he suggested that leveraging technology and fostering collaboration could bridge the gap and enhance healthcare delivery. One of the key strategies proposed by NMLSD is to foster collaboration with experts abroad, which can lead to the transfer of specialized knowledge, advanced techniques, and best practices in laboratory medicine.

This collaborative approach aims to enable earlier disease detection, personalized treatment plans, and improved patient monitoring, thereby enhancing healthcare outcomes and reducing reliance on medical tourism. The upcoming conference organized by NMLSD, scheduled for March 23, 2024, bears the theme “Leveraging the Diaspora Experience for an Improved Medical Laboratory Science Practice in Nigeria.” It will provide a platform for extensive discussions on strategies to enhance collaboration between medical laboratory scientists both at home and abroad. Dr. Ukpai Eze, co-chair of the conference organizing committee, shed light on the milestones achieved in Medical Laboratory Science in Nigeria, including the enactment of the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria Act in 2003.

Investments and collaboration crucial for Nigerian healthcare.

Despite these achievements, challenges persist due to inadequate investments in laboratory infrastructure and manpower training. The lack of a robust diagnostic capacity within Nigeria’s healthcare system has been a major driver of medical tourism, with many Nigerians seeking healthcare services overseas due to perceived higher standards and better-equipped facilities. Dr. Eze emphasized the urgent need for increased investments in medical laboratory diagnostic capacity building within Nigeria, particularly leveraging the expertise and resources of the Nigerian Diaspora.

Mrs. Abiola Oketikun, the chairperson of the conference organization committee and vice president of NMLSD, echoed the sentiment that enhancing medical laboratory science practice in Nigeria is pivotal to reducing the financial burden of medical tourism on average Nigerians. By leveraging the diaspora experience and expertise, Nigeria can enhance its healthcare service provision, reverse the trend of medical tourism, and ensure that quality healthcare is accessible within the country. The conference aims to bring together stakeholders from the medical field, government agencies, academia, and the private sector to chart a path forward for a more robust and sustainable healthcare system in Nigeria.

Related Article: Brain drain in the Nigerian health sector

Through collaborative efforts and strategic investments, NMLSD envisions a future where Nigeria’s healthcare sector thrives, reducing reliance on external healthcare services and ensuring better health outcomes for its citizens. In all, the efforts of NMLSD and other stakeholders highlight the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address brain drain and medical tourism. By harnessing the expertise of diaspora medical professionals and investing in domestic healthcare infrastructure, Nigeria can pave the way for a healthier and more resilient healthcare system that meets the needs of its people effectively.

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