ONLY four doctors could attend to 10,000 people living in Nigeria, and the trend has been so in the past two decades, The ICIR reports.
In 2003, three (2.65) doctors were available to attend to 10,000 people in the country. But the number peaked at four (4.49 in 2016 and 3.81 in 2018), after 19 years, according to World Health Organization WHO) records.
WHO data on global doctors’ population among countries reveal that some African nations have more doctors to attend to their population than Nigeria.
The WHO’s data capture countries’ ratio of available doctors to 10,000 people in each nation.
Mauritius (27 doctors in 2020), Tunisia (13 in 2017), Cape Verde (eight in 2018), South Africa and Egypt (seven each in 2019), Gabon (six in 2018) have more doctors to attend to their populations than Nigeria.
Nigeria’s doctor-population ratio hovered around 2.65 in 2003 and 3.81 in 2018.
On Tuesday, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) Faisal Shuaib said four doctors attended to 10,000 Nigerians. He noted that the figure fell short of the United Nations’ recommendation.
The United Nations and the WHO recommended one physician to 600 persons.
According to the WHO data, Nigeria has more doctor-population ratio than many African countries, including Angola, Kenya, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Cameroon and Niger.
As of 2018, Angola and Kenya had two doctors ratio of 10,000 population. In 2019, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Cameroon had less than one doctor ratio per 10,000 population. And, Niger has had less than a doctor to 10,000 citizens since 2004.
Meanwhile, in 2019, Sweden had 70 doctors to 10,000 people, the Republic of Korea had 25, Brazil: 23, Argentina: 41, Belarus: 45, UAE: 26, UK: 29, China: 22, and Canada: 24.
As of 2020, Belgium had 61 doctors to the ratio of10,000 population, Germany: 44, Hungary: 61, Israel: 36, Italy: 39, New Zealand: 36, and Saudi Arabia: 27.
Denmark, Costa Rica, and the United States of America enjoyed 42, 33 and 26 doctors to the population, respectively, in 2018.
In 2019, the Nigerian Medical Association said the country produced 3,000 doctors yearly. This newspaper could not confirm the claim because the government does not have a platform for verifying the doctors’ population in the country.
Why Nigeria’s doctor-population ratio is low
In the past weeks, this newspaper has published a series of investigations in the nation’s hospitals, showing that doctors were leaving the country en masse.
Last month, this newspaper reported how consultants and other health workers resigned and shunned new equipment procured for various departments by the Federal Government at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Makurdi.
In addition to a similar report at the Federal Medical Centre, Jalingo, Taraba State, The ICIR also published how overseas jobs threaten the planned upgrade of FMC Yola, Adamawa State, to a teaching hospital.
The ICIR had reported in August 2021 how hundreds of doctors thronged a popular hotel in Abuja for an interview for foreign jobs when the Saudi-Arabia-based recruiter needed only seven.
Similarly, in October that year, the newspaper reported how the nation lost nearly 9,000 doctors and other health workers to the UK and other countries in two years.
Multiple reports show that the caregivers leave the country’s shores because of high incentives abroad and poor pay in Nigeria.
Other reasons are the sector’s underfunding by the government, resulting in poor health infrastructures, incessant strikes by doctors and other health workers, inter-professional rivalries, the general poor state of the nation’s economy, and pervasive insecurity across the nation.
Shortage of doctors boosts medical tourism, self-medication
President Muhammadu Buhari tops Nigeria’s elected leaders who always enjoy medical attention abroad.
Because of the difficulty many patients face in accessing doctors, they resort to self-medication.
Nigeria’s worrying health indices
Analysing Nigeria’s health system under President Muhammadu Buhari’s six-year leadership in May last year, The ICIR reported that the country had consistently contributed nearly a quarter of the global malaria burden for many years.
According to the WHO, 20 per cent of all global maternal deaths occur in Nigeria.
The 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey shows that infant and under-five mortality rates were 69 and 128 deaths per 1,000 live births, respectively. But, in 2018, the infant mortality rate reduced to 67 deaths per 1,000 live births, while under-five mortality rose to 132 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The maternal mortality ratio was 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013. In the NDHS 2018 report, it was estimated at 512 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
Some communicable and non-communicable diseases in which Nigeria has a significant lead globally are HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, Lassa Fever, hypertension, cancer and diabetes.
Data on doctors in Nigeria
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) is the agency of government regulating the medical practice and keeping doctor’s data in Nigeria. There is currently no data on the population of doctors on the agency’s website.
In 2018, the former Minister of Health Isaac Adewole said Nigeria had no “serious shortage” of doctors. But the reality on the ground says otherwise.
Adewole had said: “There is no serious shortage of doctors in Nigeria. People are free to disagree with me, but I will tell you what the situation is across Nigeria and many other African countries.
“The data obtained from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria as of May 30 revealed that 88,692 doctors are registered in their books. Of these doctors, only 45,000 are currently practising, and that gives us a ratio of one doctor to 4,088 persons.”
He said the ratio of one doctor to 4,088 patients in Nigeria was better when compared to other African countries.
“Compared to many other African countries, the ratio is not bad, for example, in South Africa, it is one (doctor) to 4,000; in Egypt, it is one to 1235; in Tanzania, it is 1: 14,000; in Ethiopia, it is one to 1 to 118,000, in Kenya, it is one to 16,000, and in Cameroon, it is one to 40,000.”