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Only one doc per 3k+ Nigerians, says minister

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By Abraham Adekunle

Nigeria's healthcare crisis and struggle with dwindling doctor-patient ratio.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof Muhammad Ali Pate, has voiced deep concerns regarding the alarming shortage of medical personnel in Nigeria. In a recent interview on national television, Prof. Pate underscored the gravity of the situation, highlighting that Nigeria, with a population exceeding 200 million people, is left with only approximately 55,000 licensed doctors. The minister’s distress stems from the significant exodus of medical professionals from the country. Prof. Pate revealed that over the past five years, around 16,000 doctors have emigrated from Nigeria, with an additional 17,000 being transferred elsewhere.

This mass departure extends beyond medical practitioners, with health workers, tech entrepreneurs, and professionals across various fields seeking opportunities abroad, leaving Nigeria grappling with a critical shortage of skilled individuals. According to Prof. Pate’s assessment, Nigeria boasts approximately 300,000 health professionals, including doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, and laboratory scientists. However, despite this seemingly substantial figure, only a fraction remains within the country’s borders. He pointed out that while there are around 85,000 to 90,000 registered Nigerian doctors, a mere 55,000 are actively practicing within Nigeria, with a significant number opting to work overseas, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Brain drain the cause of healthcare crisis in Nigeria.

Also, the minister elaborated on the adverse effects of this brain drain on Nigeria’s healthcare sector, emphasizing that it has deprived the nation of its top medical talents, exacerbating the scarcity of healthcare providers. Moreover, Prof. Pate highlighted the issue of uneven distribution, noting a concentration of skilled doctors in urban centres such as Lagos and Abuja. In specific figures, Prof. Pate disclosed that Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, boasts approximately 7,600 doctors, while Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, is home to around 4,700.

However, despite these figures, the doctor-to-population ratio remains alarmingly low, with Abuja registering 14.7 doctors per 10,000 population and Lagos trailing behind at approximately 4.6. These figures fall well below the global average of 2.2 doctors per 10,000 population, underscoring the severity of the situation. Recognizing the pivotal role of human resources in fostering an efficient healthcare system, Prof Pate emphasized that Nigeria cannot afford to continue losing its top talents to developed nations. In response, the government has initiated efforts to enhance training programs and introduce incentives to encourage healthcare workers to remain in the country.

Beyond ‘Japa,’ Nigeria’s struggle deepens amid global healthcare crisis.

Contrary to popular belief, the phenomenon of medical professionals leaving their home countries, often referred to as “Japa” extends beyond Nigeria’s borders. Prof. Pate highlighted that this is a global issue, with many nations facing similar challenges due to a scarcity of skilled healthcare providers. The decline in Nigeria’s doctor-patient ratio is a symptom of broader systemic challenges plaguing the nation’s healthcare sector. In addition to the brain drain phenomenon, factors such as inadequate infrastructure, limited access to quality education and training facilities, and insufficient investment in healthcare services have contributed to the crisis.

Moreover, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated these challenges, placing immense strain on an already overburdened healthcare system. The shortage of medical personnel has hindered the country’s ability to effectively respond to the pandemic, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive reforms and strategic interventions. Addressing the root causes of Nigeria’s healthcare crisis requires a multifaceted approach. In addition to efforts aimed at retaining and attracting skilled professionals, there is a pressing need to invest in infrastructure development, expand access to quality education and training programs, and prioritize the provision of affordable and accessible healthcare services to all segments of the population.

Related Article: Why Nig. doctors emigrate–NMA President

Furthermore, fostering collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society organizations, and international partners is essential to implement sustainable solutions that address the underlying systemic issues and ensure the delivery of equitable healthcare services to all Nigerians. To sum up, Nigeria’s healthcare sector is facing an unprecedented crisis characterized by a dwindling doctor-patient ratio and an acute shortage of skilled medical professionals. Urgent action is needed to address this pressing issue and safeguard the health and well-being of the nation’s citizens. Failure to do so risks further exacerbating existing disparities and undermining efforts to achieve universal health coverage and sustainable development.

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