Nigeria lost over 9,000 medical doctors to the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States of America between 2016 and 2018, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said.
The President of the association, Professor Innocent Ujah, stated this during the Maiden NMA Annual Lecture Series in Abuja.
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The theme of this year’s lecture is ‘Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin evil in Nigeria’s Health System.’
He said the loss left Nigeria with only 4.7 per cent of its specialists to service the healthcare needs of the population, saying this does not paint the country in good light.
“Brain drain worsens the already depleted healthcare resources in developing countries like Nigeria and widens the gap in health inequities worldwide. Healthcare workers generally migrate from developing countries to more developed countries, leaving a scarcity of health workers where the need is greatest.”
Quoting World Health Organisation (WHO) data, he said 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.
He said another issue that posed a great challenge to the country’s health system was medical tourism.
He said that Nigerians are said to spend over USD one billion annually on medical tourism according to a Price Waterhouse Cooper’s report in 2016. The lead speaker of the annual lecture, Professor Oyewale Tomori, said good governance would go a long way in tackling brain drain, medical tourism and other challenges in the health sector.
Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the government was committed to a paradigm shift and that President Muhammadu Buhari had set up a health reform committee geared towards reversing the brain drain among others.
Former Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole said corruption was also fueling medical tourism in the country.
He advised medical practitioners to protect patients’ information to encourage more public officials to seek medical care in the country.