Prominent experts in Nigerian healthcare sector have said that it will be difficult for the country to generate enough professionals to successfully address its rising healthcare needs as the brain drain crisis persists. They estimated that Nigeria would need at least 20 years to generate the 400,000 additional healthcare professionals necessary to meet the needs of the country’s 220 million people. In an exclusive interview with the media, Nigerian top medical professionals bemoaned the country’s awful doctor-to-patient ratio of 1-to-8,000, which is considerably lower than the 1-to-600 ratio recommended by the World Health Organization.
Professor Ali Pate, the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, spoke to reporters in Abuja after a three-day briefing session with ministry departments and agencies, saying that the 400,000 workforce to be generated in the healthcare system include community health workers, nurses, midwives, pharmacists, physicians, lab scientists, technicians and auxiliaries. He said that there is roughly an 18 million workers shortage in the healthcare industry worldwide, therefore there is capacity to generate more and beyond.
Nigeria currently produces an average of 3,000 per year.
According to the Register of the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom, which maintains the official register of medical practitioners within the UK, there are 11,000 doctors trained in Nigeria who are practicing in the UK. Professor Mike Ogirima, a former president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), stated that the enormous exodus of Nigerian healthcare professionals to foreign nations, predominantly driven by the pursuit of more favorable conditions, has exerted a deleterious impact on the few that are left.
He also termed the ratio of doctors to patients in Nigeria as a horrible one. Prof. Ogirima, who is also the Provost of the College of Health Sciences at Federal University Lokoja in Kogi State, lamented that Nigeria currently has a severe shortage of doctors as it only generates an average of 3,000 per year. A professor of orthopedic and trauma surgery in Nigeria explained that the current medical workforce deficit in the country’s public hospitals was not an overnight phenomenon. In 2016, Ogirima revealed that there are at least 20,000 Nigerian doctors working in the United States and over 15,000 in European countries.
FG can begin by retaining the current pool of health workforce.
About 40,000 of Nigerian 75,000 registered medical professionals were practicing abroad in 2017, with a more alarming speculation that 75 percent of those who remained in the country planned to leave the nation in the near future. Ogrima implored the government to allocate substantial resources towards the enhancement of health workers’ training and the amelioration of the prevailing predicaments of insecurity. He added that it will be challenging for the country to retain health professionals in the absence of adequate provisions of equipment and motivation.
Prof. Adetokunbo Fabamwo, the Chief Medical Director of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital in Ikeja, argued that the federal government should do all possible to keep the remaining medical doctors in the country. He pointed out that there is a significant amount of loss in developing countries. That’s why there’s such a dramatic influx of Nigerian medical professionals to the UK, Canada and the US. As the federal government plans to produce 400,000 new health workers is still unknown, the Prof. suggested they begin by retaining the current pool of health workforce. Current conditions show that they are departing as we produce more, he added.
Minister should promote teamwork among medical professionals.
Olumide Akintayo, a former president of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, warned our press that the country’s lack of human resources would make it difficult to generate 400,000 worth of health personnel. “We cannot produce these numbers in the universities. Who are the people going to train this number,” he asked. He further suggested that the minister coordinating healthcare remove barriers in healthcare and promote teamwork among medical professionals. Providing services for the country’s healthcare needs has become increasingly difficult due to the widespread departure of medical professionals.