Medical staff desert hospitals as Nigerian doctors flood UK, Egypt, Uganda, others


As Nigerians continue to seek greener pastures outside the shores of the country, an investigation by Sunday PUNCH has revealed that no fewer than 281 Nigerian doctors are currently practising in other African countries.

This is according to data obtained from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria.

Nigerian doctors are flooding these African countries and others despite the recent pronouncement by the World Health Organisation that Nigeria and 54 other countries face the most pressing health workforce challenges related to universal health coverage.

The situation is said to be affecting the operations of the nation's hospitals being deserted by the medical workers.

The Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Hospitals, Prof. Emem Bassey, had in August said African countries were poaching Nigerian medical doctors and other health professionals.

He also said countries like Sierra Leone and Gambia were offering them up to $3,000 to $4,000.

Bassey, who is the CMD of the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital, said the health sector was undergoing a major crisis in terms of manpower as health professionals are leaving in droves.

The MDCN data showed that 153 Nigerian doctors are practising in Sudan; followed by South Africa with 41 doctors; Egypt -17; Ghana -17; Uganda -13; and Gambia - seven.

Others are Lesotho -six; Cameroon - four; Namibia -four; Algeria -two; Ethiopia -two; Kenya -two; Liberia -two; Benin -one; Botswana -one; Equatorial Guinea -one; Niger -one; Rwanda -one; Sierra Leone -one; Seychelles -one; South Sudan -one; Tanzania -one; Togo -one; and Zambia -one.

11,872 in UK

According to the register of the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom, the number of Nigerian-trained doctors practising in the UK has increased to 11,872.

Nigeria has the third highest number of foreign doctors working in the UK after India, and Pakistan.

The President of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Prof Muhammad Muhammad, told Sunday PUNCH that the poaching of Nigerian doctors in African countries and others is not a new thing.

He said Nigerian doctors practising in other African countries earn more than their colleagues practising in Nigeria.

He said, "For instance, in 2020, I was offered $6,500 per month to go to Liberia, and that contract was supposed to be for a year. There are a lot of factors that will make someone either leave or stay.

"The issue is that what you have depends on how you price it, but others may see the best out of what you have. You may not cherish or protect what you have, and this is taking its toll on Nigeria because what you are doing about six years ago can no longer be done. After all, the manpower is gradually reducing."

Muhammad said even from medical schools, doctors were already preparing themselves to move abroad.

He said the government must be ready to do more to retain healthcare workers in the country.

He added, "These days, doctors at the medical school are preparing themselves to have a certification to move abroad. Before we get to the red line, we need to let the government know that there is a need to look at not just welfare, or money, but even the working conditions of the health workers in the country.

"You may be surprised that somebody who is almost at the apex grade level may be moving around with his files with no office. This is what is happening in Nigeria. Even in tertiary institutions, you may find out that there are no basic amenities to do the work. The government needs to be alive with its responsibilities to ensure that we have a good working environment, good security, and good welfare.

"The government has to do a lot to retain staff, especially healthcare staff because as the younger ones are going out, the senior ones are exiting because of the retirement at 60. Meanwhile, a lot of them have so much experience, and so much to offer."

Situation shameful -NARD

The President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Dr Emeka Orji, said it was shameful that Nigerian doctors are going to African countries because they are treated better and they have a better working environment there.

Orji said, "The brain drain is what we have been saying all the while. It is good that top government officials are also speaking out about it now. Maybe with that, the government will put measures in place to address the causes of brain drain.

"But it is shameful that Nigerian doctors are going to African countries because they are treated better over there; they have a better working environment, better incentives, and better remuneration.

"These are countries that cannot boast of the economic status we have in Nigeria, and if they can treat Nigerian doctors better, there is no way Nigeria should not be able to do better than them."

NMA seeks end to brain drain

The Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State Chapter, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, also said the government needed to address the brain drain in the country.

He said there is a need to "increase the welfare of doctors, increase remuneration across the board, and give special allowances to medical doctors who decide to stay and practice in rural communities."

Earlier in the year, the World Health Organisation said Nigeria and 54 other countries were on the red list of countries that should not be actively targeted for recruitment by health and social care employers.

The global health body said the countries face the most pressing health workforce challenges related to universal health coverage.

"In particular, these countries have a density of doctors, nurses, and midwives below the global median (i.e., 49 per 10,000 population); and a universal health coverage service coverage index below a certain threshold," it said.

Replacement difficult -CMD

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Committee of CMDs, Bassey, said it was difficult to replace the doctors leaving Nigeria.

"The replacement of these health workers is a major problem. This is because even though we are usually granted approvals to recruit, getting the waivers is a tortuous process," he said.

He said due to the urgency of the need to replace various health professionals who leave, it is difficult to comply with federal character in recruitment.


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