The mass emigration of Nigeria-trained healthcare professionals is worrisome, the Federal Government and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), lamented yesterday.
They lamented that the country ranks next to India and Pakistan in number of foreign doctors plying their trade in the United Kingdom (UK).
According to them, Nigeria lost over 9,000 medical doctors to the UK, Canada, and the United States of America between 2016 and 2018.
Between the six months of December 2021 and May this year alone, 727 medical doctors – trained in Nigeria – relocated to the UK.
A data from the UK’s Register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) shows that the number of Nigeria-trained nurses rose by 68.4 per cent from 2,790 in March 2017 to 7,256 in March 2022.
They, therefore, advocated the creation of a conducive environment for healthcare professionals to thrive, while other socio-economic aspects like insecurity, poor remuneration and welfare, among others, should be adequately addressed.
They stated this in Abuja during a national symposium anchored by the Partnership for Advancing Child and Family Health at Scale (PAS), a policy advocacy project implemented through strategic partnerships by the development Research and Projects (dRPC) and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to address brain drain in the country.
The NMA President, Dr. Uche Ojinmah, said: “As of today, Nigeria-trained doctors are leaving in droves for Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. No official figures yet, but it can’t be less than 2,000 as of today.
“Brain drain is real. But it is worse as it pertains to medical residency (medical postgraduate clinical training) programmes in Nigeria because the trainers (Specialists) and trainees/possible trainees (raw material) are being ‘drained’ down to dregs.”
The Director-General of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Prof. Ayo Omotayo, added: “There is a need for an improved health workers’ supply to tackle the supply deficit in order to solve the disease burden and positively turn the tide of health indicators.
“In addition, there is the urgent need for our country to meet the 15 per cent allocation of the total domestic budget to the health sector as pledged by Nigeria and African countries in 2001.”
They spoke just as Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Budglt revealed that Nigeria loses about $1.1 billion annually to medical tourism.
It said the money could be saved if the Federal Government pays attention to the country’s healthcare systems.
Budglt’s Iyanuoluwa Bolarinwa, who stated this, advocated laws to bar public officials from seeking medical attention abroad.
He spoke yesterday in Abuja at the official launch of the Nigerian health sector accountability report by Budglt, Connected Development (CODE), with support from Skoll and Conrad Hilton Foundation.
Bolarinwa said: “I talked about how $1.1b is being spent out of this country yearly for medical tourism; we can keep the money in our country if we improve our healthcare systems.
“The healthcare systems that we don’t use, we don’t have the incentive to make better. We need to make laws that bar our public officials from going out there to seek medical attention. If everyone stays back to use the medical systems in Nigeria, it would be improved.”
Budglt also raised questions about the Federal Government’s management of COVID-19 funds
Bolarinwa said: “We have still not seen the audited statement of the COVID-19 funds spent in Nigeria; we have asked and tried to get it. I won’t categorically say that all the funds were mismanaged but did they judiciously use these funds?
“These are questions that would be answered when we get the audited statements but on the Nocopo platform, we saw that some things were purchased that didn’t meet the value in the market; it looked outrageous, talking about the nose masks, PPEs. We called all the MDAs responsible for making expenditures.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) CODE and founder, Follow the Money, Hamzat Lawal said the meeting was to ensure Nigeria is ready for the next pandemic after COVID-19.
Global director Budglt, Olusegun Onigbinde, said political campaigns must now be centred around healthcare systems.