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I’m not worried about doctors leaving Nigeria, we have surplus… Ngige

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MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, says the mass exodus of young Nigerian doctors is nothing to be worried about as there is an abundance of doctors in the country.

Ngige, who spoke during Channel Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, said there was nothing wrong in young doctors going abroad to sharpen their knowledge and skills, make more money and send back to Nigeria to develop the economy.

He said that back in the days when Nigeria did not have qualified teachers, people came from all over the world to teach in Nigerian schools.

“I’m not worried, we have a surplus (of doctors), if we have a surplus, we export,” Ngige said. “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, quote me.”

Ngige pointed out that many of the Nigerian doctors practising abroad have medical centres in Nigeria that can boast of modern facilities that could not be found even in government-owned hospitals, hence there is no question of a brain drain

“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,” he continued.

“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.”

Ngige is a medical doctor by training, having graduated from the University of Nigeria-Nsukka in 1979 and worked at the National Assembly and State House clinics at different times. He retired from the civil service in 1998 as a Deputy Director in the Federal Ministry of Health.

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How true is Ngige’s claim?

Ngige’s claims re-echoed the opinion of the current Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, who said that the number of doctors in Nigeria was sufficient for the population when compared to other African countries but that the problem was the uneven distribution of doctors across the country.

Speaking during the 38th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) in September 2018, Adewole said: “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 one doctor to 4,088 persons.

“Compared to many other African countries the ratio is not bad, for example, in South African 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.”

However, according to an article titled, “The emigration of doctors from Nigeria is not today’s problem, it is tomorrow’s”, Aduragbemi Banke-Thomas, a Fellow in the LSE (London School of Economics) Department of Health Policy, noted that though the population of doctors in Nigeria is significant when compared to other African countries, that ratio is still a very far cry from the “global recommendation of one doctor to 600 population”.

Citing a poll also organised by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, Banke-Thomas noted that “there is a deficit of over 260,000 doctors in Nigeria and a minimum of 10,605 new doctors need to be recruited annually to meet global targets!”

“This gap is particularly critical for a country like Nigeria which has some of the poorest health outcome indices in the world, including the fourth highest maternal mortality ratio and the eight highest infant mortality ratio. So, to be clear, there are not enough doctors in Nigeria!” he opined.

Similarly, in May 2018, the President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Francis Faduyile, said that Nigerian doctors were leaving the country in high numbers because of three reasons namely, poor remuneration, poor facilities in hospitals, both of which results in lack of job satisfaction.

“Many of our health professionals are overworked. A doctor is supposed to see an average of 20 patients a day, but in Nigeria, doctors see s high as 150 patients daily” he said,

Faduyile added that “the remuneration of doctors is very poor, if you go to other climes, what we are paid here is just 10 per cent of what they collect.

On what needs to be done to make Nigerian doctors stay back home, Faduyile said: “First is when you appreciate your doctors, it will make them stay. The government needs to bring more equipment. We need to have more fund for health.

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