Incidentally, Nigerian doctors have been migrating to the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Saudi Arabia and many other nations across the globe.
Though relevant medical agencies in Nigeria could not provide official data on emigrant doctors, statistics from General Medical Council (GMC) UK, as at July 2017 showed that over 4,765 Nigerian doctors are working in the UK. This is 1.7 per cent of the total of the UK’s medical workforce.
The Association also revealed on Monday that over 80,000 registered medical doctors in its database but, regrettably, less than 50 percent of them currently practice in Nigeria. It also confirmed that no fewer than 12 Nigerian medical doctors leave Nigeria weekly for greener pastures in US, UK, Canada and other developed countries including African countries, due poor working conditions and other unhealthy labour practices in Nigeria. This trend has been having negative effects on the nation’s health sector. The major factors responsible for the unhealthy development are; poor remuneration, poor facilities and working condition, and job satisfaction. Many of our health professionals are over worked. A doctor is supposed to see a maximum of 20 patients a day but they are seeing about 150 in a day. Certainly by the time he gets to 50 patients, he is already exhausted. Even a nurse that is supposed to see about four patients has to take care of 50 patients in a ward. Certainly, he/she will get tired. The truth is that in Nigeria, the working environment for many doctors is very hostile. Many doctors see patients that they can treat or intervene on their issues die before them because the hospitals they are working in do not have the necessary equipment to take care of them.
Also, the remuneration of doctors is very poor. If you go to other climes, what we are paying in Nigeria is just 10 per cent of what they collect and they respect doctors. It is instructive to note that we don’t have good funding maintenance for hospitals in the country. The few doctors that we have are over worked and are not appreciated. These reasons and others might not be unconnected to the ongoing brain drain in the country. We must know that relocation of one medical doctor from Nigeria affects over 5,000 citizens that could have benefitted from his or her medical expertise. The relocation automatically deny thousands of patients access to quality health care from a trusted medical practitioner. There are also indications that Africa loses $2 billion annually to medical tourism and medical brain drain while Nigeria contributes the larger percentage of the medical tourists. Nigeria is using her resources to train doctors and professionals that will leave to work in foreign countries. What are those things attracting these professionals outside? Can we duplicate them here?”
We are of the opinion that government should provide adequate remuneration for our medical doctors. Though we are not saying they should pay them so much, government should pay them for the job they are doing as and when due. We are also of the opinion that the Federal Government should make the National Insurance Scheme (NHIS) compulsory for all citizens. We believe that the development would provide enough funds to improve the conditions of service and working environment for health professionals. It is unfortunate that our medical doctors are leaving Nigeria because of poor conditions of service, working environment and after service package. The development indicates that the physician-patient ratio has worsened, maybe from 1:3,000 to 1:5,000. When you compare, those countries that have better physician-patient ratio have better treatment environment. If the the doctors know they will have a house after 20 years of training, the lure to leave Nigeria would be reduced. What are the benefits attached to the job? What are the provisions for the doctor’s family? What are the long-term prospects for the staff?
We submit that government must improve the work environment in terms of financing, make it work-friendly and not crowding of 10 persons in one office. We must ensure electricity supply and avoid a situation where doctors come to work and scheduled to do a surgery but there is no electricity.
We are of the opinion that there is the need for the country to be more dynamic and re-organise the funding of health service. The government must adopt a more holistic approach to halt the dangerous trend of medical brain drain.