By G9ija

MEDICAL experts have raised the alarm that the ratio of doctors available in the country was now one to 6,400 patients as a result of brain-drain.

The experts, including the Chief Medical Director, University of Medical Sciences Teaching Hospital, Ondo State, Dr. Oluwole Ige, and an Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Rehabilitation, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile- lfe, Osun state, Dr. Teslim Onigbinde, spoke in Ondo at the 2nd induction of physiotherapists, who recently graduated from the University of Medical Sciences, UNIMED, Ondo.

The figure is 5,900 patients higher than the United Nations recommended ratio of one doctor to 500 patients. 

It is also 1,400 patients higher than one doctor to 5,000 patients, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, declared, late last month, at its Anambra Chapter’s Physicians’ Week and Scientific Conference in Nnewi.

38.7% of Nigerians suffer healthcare depreciation

Apart from poor access to doctors, access to health facilities is also a challenge, as the recently released multi-dimensional poverty by the National Bureau of Statistics survey showed that more than one out of every three Nigerian suffers deprivation in terms of time to healthcare.

According to the report, titled: “The 2022 Multidimensional Poverty Index,” a household is deprived if it takes them 30 minutes or more to reach the nearest functional health facility or primary healthcare centre on foot. 

The survey revealed that 38.7 per cent of Nigerians spend more than 30 minutes to reach the nearest functional health facility. 

NMA Secretary General, Dr. Jide Onyekwelu, who spoke at the Nnewi event, had said the rate at which doctors were migrating for greener pastures posed serious manpower crisis in the health sector, noting that while the UN standard recommended an average of one doctor to 500 patients, the ratio had dropped to about 1:5000 in Nigeria due to the declining number of doctors in the country.

Current statistics, according to the medical experts at the induction ceremony in Ondo, the number has dropped further to 6,400 patients to one doctor.

Dr. lge expressed worries over the rate at which medical professionals were leaving Nigeria in search of better opportunities abroad. 

He called for urgent measure to salvage the trend, saying: “the country is in dire emergency situation within the medical sector.”

Ige, who spoke through, the Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, CMAC, Dr. Michael Gbala, expressed mixed feelings that half of the 34 inductees were already nursing the ambition to board the next flight to developed countries and appealed to medical personnel in Nigeria to always give a second thought before leaving the country.

His words: “You (inductees) are coming at a time there is mass exodus of medical personnel. The university has taken about five years to train you, so Nigerians will be happy to have you around.

“If your lecturers had left, they will not be around to train you. We are in a very serious situation. Except something is done, we might be heading towards major crisis. I salute those who are still around, despite the challenging situation.

“Wherever you may be, ensure you continue to retrain yourselves and be good ambassadors of the institution.”

On his part, Dr. Onigbinde described the ratio of doctors available to patients in the country as worrisome and stressed the urgent need to halt the brain drain in the health sector.

‘Work in Nigeria first’

The Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Olusegun Fatusi, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration and Clinicals, Prof. Adolphus Loto, said the inductees could seek employment in any country they desire, but advised that they must ensure they worked in Nigeria first before travelling out of the country.

“It is your right to seek employment anywhere in the world because it is part of the international labour mobility. But my advice is that before you leave, you must get a job here.

“Many people cannot come back because there is nothing to fall back on. You have two goals in your career; to solve societal problems and to solve personal problems.

“We are proud of you and your achievement so far. The induction programme, as you have been well-tutored, is not a mere ceremony. It is a critical rite of passage into a new life – the life of professional health workers, and specifically your entry into the distinguished and rewarding profession of physiotherapy.”

Also, the Dean, Faculty of Medical Rehabilitation, Prof. Matthew Olaogun, advised the inductees to remain focused on their chosen career, and pursue what they had learned in the university with the spirit of godliness and excellence.

He also expressed concern over the rate doctors were relocating abroad, leaving the health sector in dire straits.

The Registrar, Medical Rehabilitation Body of Nigeria, Olufunke Akanni, represented by the Deputy Registrar, Mr Akinyele Adeniran, admonished them to be watchful of hospitals they will undergo their mandatory 12 months internship.

Govt must act fast to stop brain drain – NMA

Reacing to the development yesterday, the Njigerian Medical Association, NMA, urged government to act fast to stop its members from migrating abroad.

Making the call, the FCT chapter of NMA, said that it was in talk with members to consider service to their fatherland in the face of government nonchalant attitude to their plights.

The Public Relations Officer of the chapter, Dr. Muyiwa Komolafe, told Vanguard:  “Brain drain is not going to end anytime soon because apparently as it is, there is really no incentive to make people stay here and serve in their country.

“However, we are trying to talk to one another to soft-pedal, that there are economic realities because you can imagine somebody earning in Pounds and Dollars, with the declining rate of the Naira. That is another factor driving people to leave the country.

“Some other things which people are supposed to look at are the possibility that if you are at home, you are in your own country and you can walk around without fear of being castigated, harassed and called all manner of names and all of that.  It’s not as if those people are actually friendly to us.

“Insecurity is one of the reasons people are leaving. Many of our colleagues have become victims of the bad security situation in the country and this is contributing to the migration of our people outside the shores of this country, thus causing the brain drain. 

“You cannot be kidnapped overseas. The police will be at the forefront of the matter, unlike here that even the police are not free from kidnap.

“Family pressure is also contributing to the migration of our members abroad. Every family wants its own person to travel abroad. When you see your colleagues that just moved abroad buying new cars even for their fathers and doing other things and you can’t even give N30,000 to your father, why would you not want to go abroad?”