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FG Decries Migration Of Health Professionals

…Identifies Poor Remuneration , Economic Performance, Security As Major Cause

The Minister of State for Health, Sen. Adeleke Mamora has decried migration of the professionals to foreign countries in search of greener pastures.

He, however, identified poor remuneration for health workers, poor economic performance, poor security cover for lives and properties and immigration policy of developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and United States of America that favour immigration of highly skilled individuals, as the causes.

According to the Minister of State, “The first wave of migration of highly skilled healthcare professionals started between the late 1980’s to the early 1990s.
It affected mainly the health and education sectors. Sadly, the migration has continued to increase at an alarming rate till today. During the first wave, only Specialists in different fields of Medicine were involved while the second wave of migration that started towards the end of 1990s to date and this cancer has sent metastases as to affect
virtually the entire healthcare professionals and particularly the medically qualified
professionals, registered by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).

“Some factors were found to be the drivers of the emigration of these highly skilled
professionals; some of them are ‘poor remuneration for health workers’ (when compared with
their counterparts in other parts of the world), poor economic performance, poor security cover for lives and properties and immigration policy of developed countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and United States of America that favour immigration of highly skilled
individuals.

“The Federal Ministry of Health has noted with concern, the rate at which Nigeria is losing her Specialists and experienced health professionals trained at great cost to other countries that offer more robust welfare packages and other conditions of service.Emigration of health care professionals contributed immensely to the gap observed in the Country’s Human Resources for Health.

“Out of about 75,000 registered Medical Practitioners in
the Country, nearly half have migrated to other Countries in search of the proverbial greener pastures. This observation is true for other cadres in the health sector. I am quick to note that these are young and our best brains that need to be nurtured in order to ensure growth and development of our dear nation. We must also note that the Government spends between
$21000 and $51000 to train a Medical Doctor ‘under a relatively free educational system”.

He revealed, “In publication by the Asian Journal of Medicine in 2017 stated that in 2013, 34,522 Nigerian Tourists visited India out of which 15,328 (42.4%) went on medical tourism and the number of
medical tourists per year has gradually increased since 2013. The Central Bank of Nigeria’s Balance of Payment report released in March 2022 stated that Nigerians spent $11.01 Billion on health-related services in foreign Countries between 2010 and 2020.

“The situation we find ourselves as a Nation is unsettling. We use the scarce resources to train these health professionals ‘bond free’ and due to one reason or the other, these fellows seek for
greener pastures outside the shores of this country. Rather ironically, Nigerians spend hard earned currency to access the services of our own homegrown professionals in a foreign land.
This is a case of double jeopardy or you may call it ‘The twin evil in Nigeria’s Health System’
because Nigeria is losing her hard-earned foreign currency to medical tourism and also losing
her highly trained Health professionals to emigration. Experts have opined that consistent
annual investment of $1Billion lost to medical tourism in the country’s health system for 5 years would have changed the nation’s health indices positively and reverse the trend of tourism to a
reasonable extent”.

He lamented, “Furthermore, the few Health Professionals that are still in the service of government are either
overworked and or need to rely on the expertise of the retired Senior Colleagues who are also overworked. This has impacted on the quality of service obtainable at our health facilities at all
levels. For example:The Country’s poor health indices (NDHS 2018 puts our Maternal Mortality Rate at 512 maternal
death per 100,000 live births, Infant Mortality Rate at 67 deaths per 1000 live births and average
Life Expectancy of 54.7 years) despite the huge investments in the health sector by
Government and Development Partners. This is attributable to the dearth of Human Resources
for Health”.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has raised alarm over
9,000 medical doctors of Nigerian origin brain drain for the purpose of greener pastures in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada in two years.

The association lamented the mass emigration of the medical experts between 2016 and 2018, negatively impacted the Nigeria’s health care system that only 4.7% of specialists were left to take care of Nigerians’ health issues.

NMA President, Professor Innocent Ujah, stated this in Abuja, that the high emigration rate of doctors of Nigerian extraction to foreign nations is alarming and unacceptable.

Ujah who spoke at the NMA’s maiden annual lecture with a theme: “Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin Evil in Nigeria’s Health System”, also said over $1 billion was being spent yearly by Nigerians on medical tourism.

Regretting that the development was negatively impacting the nation’s health system, Prof. Ujah, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Medical Science, Otukpo, said Africa, including Nigeria, was encountering a health workforce crisis.

Noting that human resources for health, which according to him, represented “one of the six pillars of a strong and efficient health system”, was critical to the improvement the health system, the professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said a huge amount Nigerians were injecting into medical tourism was weakening Nigeria’s economy.

The impact of the development on the economy, he said was a reduction of funding and investment in the health sector, widening infrastructural deficits and the growing distrust in the Nigerian health system by the Nigerian public.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sub-Saharan Africa has about 3 per cent of the world’s health workers while it accounts for 24 per cent of the global burden of disease. Nigeria has a doctor-to-population ratio of about 1: 4000-5000 which falls far short of the WHO recommended doctor-to-population ratio of 1:600. Nigeria is still grappling with disturbingly poor health indices,” he said.

According to him, “The Nigerian health sector today groans under the devastating impact of huge human capital flight which now manifests as brain drain.”

The theme of the lecture, he noted, was apt, adding, “The twin monster of brain drain and medical tourism seems to have a bi-directional relationship, which implies that one will lead to the other and vice-versa.”

“It is because of the devastating consequences of this twin evil on the health system efficiency and effectiveness and the urgent need for solutions and action that inspired the theme for this maiden NMA Annual Lecture tagged, Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin evil in Nigeria’s Health System.

“The burning desire of NMA to proactively confront the many challenges of healthcare delivery in Nigeria must be sustained using evidence-based constructive engagement, high-level advocacy and understanding to achieve quality healthcare for our people so as to reduce the unacceptably high morbidity and mortality.

“This national discourse on brain drain and medical tourism is, therefore, inevitable at this time and it is only right, just and appropriate for Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to take the lead, being the leader of the health team”, he further said.

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