On medical brain drain and a failing healthcare system
The continual influx of rich Nigerians seeking medical care in foreign nations is a national humiliation of epic proportions, while the poor are left with no choice but to perish. That is a sobering testimony for a country that is meant to be a model and a shining example on the African continent, especially because the authorities appear unconcerned about the horrible problem.
According to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Nigerians spend over $1 billion per year on medical care overseas, which has a negative influence on the country’s health system. Moreover, President Muhammadu Buhari has already stated that medical tourism costs the economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year.
According to the medical organization, this is due to brain drain, which is aggravating Nigeria’s limited healthcare resources and extending the global health inequity gap. Nigeria’s health-care dilemma has turned into a severe ulcer, flourishing on the meds of physicians’ flight caused by hard working conditions, low pay, declining infrastructure, insecurity, and harsh economic realities.
Essentially, the Nigerian health sector is suffering from the destructive effects of massive human capital flight, which has now manifested as brain drain. It is so regrettable that, even in Africa’s ostensibly greatest economy, physicians no longer see a bright future within the country’s borders since working circumstances are dismal and intolerable.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Sub-Saharan Africa contains roughly 3% of the world’s health workers and contributes for 24% of the worldwide illness burden. Nigeria now has a doctor-to-population ratio of roughly 1:4000-5000, which falls significantly short of the WHO-recommended ratio of 1:600. It is an understatement to suggest that there is a doctor shortage in this country to service the more than 200 million people.
However, a few months ago, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, allegedly stated that physicians who choose to migrate to other nations in quest of greener pastures were free to do so, arguing that Nigeria had enough medical staff to meet the population’s needs. This shows inadequate data handling or a lack of understanding of reality. Last year, the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health held recruitment exercises for Nigerian physicians.
The country’s poor doctor-patient ratio is terrible and should concern officials at all levels of government. However, there is no indication that the country’s leadership is about to address the reproach, as they prefer to rely on medical tourism, because the majority of the nation’s leaders, including the president, always fly abroad for treatment, an unacceptable situation in a country that once boasted of having one of the best four teaching hospitals in the Commonwealth.
The country’s duty bearers’ apathy to the country’s health sector crisis, which ignores the reality that the migration of physicians comes at the price of Nigerian lives, is a contradiction wrapped into a tragedy. The more physicians that leave this nation, the greater the maternal and child mortality rates, as well as the very poor life expectancy. Furthermore, poor illness treatment results might be concerning. This might explain why Nigeria continues to have alarmingly low health indicators.
Based on the sector’s brain drain, it is clear that qualified health workers are required in every corner of the world. So, governments at all levels must rise to the occasion to reverse this trend, because when healthcare professionals lack opportunities for professional development, an enabling environment in which to function, are unable to fully utilize their skills, and discover that the quality of their lives is deplorable in comparison to their peers in more advanced countries, they have no choice but to flee abroad for greener pastures.
As a result, the outflow of physicians will continue until Nigeria places the greatest value on healthcare. As a result, the government must take healthcare seriously and make it a top priority, given its crucial relevance in residents’ lives. As this publication has consistently stated, the importance of budget plans for health must be greatly increased.
In truth, healthcare needs significant investment, not simply additional cash. Better investment can result in higher pay for health professionals, greater training chances for physicians, and improved availability of equipment and other infrastructural amenities.
To safeguard the nation’s health infrastructure and staff, the government at all levels must instill confidence in and demonstrate a determination to enhance healthcare services by enacting essential legislation capable of raising financing for the sector and ensuring that the monies are properly managed.
Better political commitment to healthcare; a better appreciation of the value of medical personnel, as well as better and more competitive pay; better working conditions and an inspiring work environment; improved security and access to social amenities; and attractive and globally respected postgraduate training programs for health workers will not only stabilize the healthcare delivery system, but will also halt the current brain drain.
It’s also worth noting that most of our politicians who fought against overseas medical tourism for public officials during the previous government didn’t follow through on their pledges by investing heavily in health care facilities. Leaders should stop lamenting and start acting now to halt the heinous trend of Nigerian physicians fleeing to richer pastures overseas.
Nigerians expect President Muhammadu Buhari, who has spent so much time in the United Kingdom on health-related matters, to set a good example, implement the change he pledged against foreign medical tourism in 2015, and enhance local health facilities for the benefit of the Nigerian people.
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