24 April 2019

Nigeria: Labour Minister 'Not Worried' About Doctors Leaving Nigeria

Photo: Pixabay

In spite of an appalling doctor-patient ratio, Nigeria's labour minister said he is not worried about how medical doctors are leaving the country in droves.

Chris Ngige, himself a medical doctor, compared the brain drain to the exportation of surplus products.

"I'm not worried," Chris Ngige said on Channels Television's breakfast show Sunrise Daily.

"We have surplus. If we have a surplus, we export. I was taught Biology and Chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.

"They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess. We have enough, more than enough."

A report published Britain's General Medical Council shows that 896 doctors of Nigerian nationality sat for Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test between September 2016 and June 2017.

The PLAB test is for doctors who have qualified overseas and wish to practise medicine in the UK under limited registration. There are two parts to the PLAB test.

"The nationalities most frequently recorded in 2016-2017 were, in order, Nigerian, Pakistani, Indian and British," the report says.

74.6% of the Nigerians that sat for the exams passed, the report showed.

Nigeria's polling agency, NOI Polls, in partnership with Nigerian Health Watch in 2017, in a survey found about 8 out of every 10 (88 %) medical doctors in Nigeria were seeking work opportunities abroad.

The survey revealed that the reasons for the continuous brain drain in the health sector include challenges such as high taxes and deduction from salary (98 percent), low work satisfaction (92 percent), poor salaries and emoluments (91 percent) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice abroad (47 percent) amongst others.

Figures released February 2018 by the British government indicate that no fewer than 5,405 Nigerian-trained doctors and nurses are currently working with the British National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom (U.K.).

"There is nothing wrong, they go out to sharpen their skills, earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them, not from oil," Ngige said.

"Those guys go there, they are better trained because of the facilities they have there. Eventually, I know a couple of them who practise abroad but set up medical centres back home."

"They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government hospitals cannot maintain. So, I don't see any loss.

"Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don't have neurosurgeons here," he added.

Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain (MANSAG) said there are more "5000 Physicians, Nurses, Radiographers, Pharmacists and other Healthcare professionals of Nigerian origin."

Stifling working conditions

According to an estimate, about 2,000 doctors have left Nigeria over the past few years. They blamed their emigrating on poor working conditions.

In the US the annual healthcare threshold per person is $10,000 while in Nigeria it is just $6.

The federal government budgeted N315.62 billion for the ministry of health in the 2019 spending list, only four per cent of the budget.

Moreover, Nigeria is at the mercy of the dilapidated health infrastructure. Rich Nigerians often travel for healthcare.

Even the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, seeks medical care in London in spite of the billions of naira spent on keeping State House clinic in the last four years.

Consultant Public Health Physician, Prof. Akin Osibogun, a former Chief Medical Director (CMD) of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said Nigeria currently produces about 3,000 medical doctors every year and needs to increase the ratio by producing more, and developing plans on how to retain them.

"We need to make working conditions attractive. If they know they will have a house after 20 years of training, the lure to leave would be reduced. What are the benefits attached to the job," Osibogun said.

"What are the provisions for the doctors' family? What are the long-term prospects for the staff?

"We need to improve the work environment in terms of financing. Make it work-friendly, not crowding 10 persons in one office," he added.

More on This

Doctors Are Free to Leave Nigeria, Says Ngige

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said that medical doctors who want to leave Nigeria, are… Read more »

See What Everyone is Watching

Copyright © 2019 The Guardian. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.