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Chris Ngige and number of doctors in Nigeria

The Honourable Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Christ Ngige, appeared in Sunrise Daily programme of Channel TV asserting that Nigeria has more than enough…

The Honourable Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Christ Ngige, appeared in Sunrise Daily programme of Channel TV asserting that Nigeria has more than enough doctors. In his words “we have enough (medical doctors), we have more than enough (doctors). Quote me” The Minister made the statement in response to a question by the anchor of the programme expressing concern at the rate doctors are leaving the country. I watched the video clip patiently to hear the minister quoting any statistical data to substantiate his claim but he fell short of that. This then reminds me of what Edwards Deming, a Data Scientist said, ‘’Without Data you are just another person with an opinion’’. The question was probably prompted by recent news of how Nigerian doctors stormed venue of job interview organized by Saudi officials in Lagos.

According to the World Health Organization, the number of medical doctors per 1000 people in Nigeria was 0.37.This translates to 37 doctors per 100,000 people. The irony is that the same report showed Saudi Arabia having 2.5 doctors per 1000 people (7 times higher than Nigeria’s) and yet they came to our country to woo doctors in order to complement their number. Does that mean if President Muhammadu Buhari per chance expressed concern on the report of doctors leaving the country, the Minister (being a medical doctor) will employ this his mundane India/Pakistan argument to convince the president that the country has surplus medical professionals?

Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria’s approved quota for medical and Dental Schools in Nigeria showed that the maximum number of doctors allowed to be produced based on availability of facilities by the 27 accredited medical schools per year in the country was 2045 doctors. This is the upper limit and customarily most medical schools produce less than the awarded quota. Additionally, When ASUU strike is factored in, it will be clear that we don’t produce this number annually. Let‘s assume the number will be produced by the year 2020. Coincidently our population will have increased by 4,994,191 at the prevailing population growth rate of 2.62%.That means, the fresh 2045 doctors will cater for the additional over 4 million Nigerians. That is grossly in adequate.

Furthermore, when the minister said we have enough doctors, does he mean we have enough house officers, medical officers, resident doctors or specialists? The aforementioned are all doctors but they are not the same and they operate at different levels of medical food chain. The cadre of medical profession can be akin to a pyramid with house officers occupying the broad base and the specialists at the apex. An average, a medical doctor needs an additional 5 years of rigorous postgraduate training to specialize in a particular field of interest. Some specialty like Neurosurgery takes about 8 to 9 years of postgraduate education and practice. This is aside from period of sub specialization. According to April/May 2017 pass list of National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, only 25 specialists were produced in Obstetrics and Gynecology and only 8 General surgeons. Despite the meagre number, not all of these specialists produced ended up practicing all their life in Nigeria. Quite a number leave the country on regular basis. The question remains, how many surplus specialists and subspecialists do we have to export as claimed by the Honourable Minister?

If the Minister insists that we still have surplus medical personnel, why is that not reflecting in our national health care indices? Or does he mean Nigerian health workers are benchwarmers? If we are adequately staffed, why do we spend so much on medical tourism? According to an estimate, Nigeria losses to medical tourism more than 2018 health budget.

The reality is that Nigeria suffers chronic dearth of medical doctors and other health professionals. Health and Education are two critical sectors worst hit by Brain drain syndrome in the country. A responsible government should not play ostrich. They need to go back to the drawing board and look inward in search of the solution to the problem. Poor infrastructure, remuneration issues and capacity building are some of the areas that need attention.

Mohammed wrote this piece from Abuja

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