Nigerian health workers list conditions to stem brain drain

Nigerian health workers have expressed concern over the growing number of trained and professional doctors leaving the country for “better working conditions and safety of life and property”.

Speaking on the PREMIUM TIMES Twitter space on Wednesday, health workers noted that the Nigerian system has frustrated not only doctors or nurses, but also many promising professionals to “consider living like a second class in foreign countries “.

The National President of the National Association of Nurses and Midwives of Nigeria (NANNM)Michael Nnachi, said that based on the statistics his office is currently compiling, as many as 50,000 nurses out of Nigeria’s less than 150,000 have left the country in the last five years.

Mr. Nnachi said; “There are over 50,000 nurses who have left this country in the last five to six years. I feel bad for the health sector but on the other hand, I also see them as nurses who seek their safety and a better standard of living.

“Looking at the healthcare workforce, nurses make up over 50%, and we are the victims of the terrible situations in our healthcare facilities because we are the first and maybe the last point of contact.”

Mr Nnachi, who said many Nigerian nurses have lost their lives in the line of duty and especially during the coronavirus pandemic, described it as regrettable that they did not list “a single nurse for the national honour” at the last national distinction.

“No one appreciated or celebrated what nurses do. Their conditions can be very critical even though they regularly die from COVID-19, Ebola and Lassa fever. The conditions of service are very bad, the remuneration is not exciting, the standard of living is zero and yet we are at the service of humanity,” he lamented.

Regarding the nurse-to-patient ratio, he said, with a population of between 160 million and 200 million, Nigeria now has a ratio of one nurse for about 1,160 patients instead of one. average of one nurse for every five patients.

The doctors speak

Also speaking on the space, President of the Association of Resident Physicians (ARD) at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, Dele Olaitan, said the reality is that “even the 24,000 doctors who would currently stay in Nigeria cannot be correct as many leave on a daily basis.

Mr. Olaitan said; “In Nigeria, we are starting to lose sight of the institutions that are part of the health system. Naturally, we are supposed to have primary, secondary and tertiary health care facilities, but due to shortage of manpower, we have a lot of patients who are supposed to visit primary and secondary care facilities but go in tertiary health care facilities.

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He noted, however, that because working conditions are very poor, skilled healthcare workers are “unwilling even to work for the public system.”

“Many teaching hospitals are posting vacancies and we don’t even have doctors to apply because they don’t feel the need to join the collapsing system.

“So unless we find a way to increase the total number of doctors in the system, it’s pretty appalling that we have so few doctors,” he said.

“Look beyond the doctors”

Meanwhile, in his commentary, an obstetrician and gynecologist Waleola Akinboboye, noted that it is not just Nigerian doctors who are migrating but other professionals as well.

He said, “It is not just Nigerian doctors who are migrating; for every Nigerian doctor who leaves Nigeria, there are about three to five nurses or even more who have also migrated. As much as doctors are essential parts of health care, nurses, laboratory scientists and pharmacists are equally important. So we should also consider their migration.

“So the question we have to ask ourselves is: why are these people migrating? And I think the simple reason is that their existence is threatened on their own soil. Insecurity and economic reasons are therefore the fundamental reasons and until we address these reasons, no effort will keep anyone in a hostile environment.

Possible restriction to work in the UK?

Speakers also responded to rumors regarding the bilateral agreement between the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and the UK medical agency that all Nigerian doctors must practice in Nigeria for 10 years before migrating to the UK.

They said they would resist any attempt to challenge the fundamentals of labor mobility and that if Nigeria succeeds in its perceived attempt to force the UK to stop hiring Nigerian experts, many other countries would open their doors.

The secretary of the Association of Resident Physicians at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Ogunsanya Ayomide, said doctors would always travel to other countries regardless of the restrictions.

“The fact that they may try to prevent people from traveling to the UK does not mean that medical staff in this country will not go elsewhere. It’s not just in the UK that medical staff travel around the world.

“In the past two or three years, most of the consulting professors of medicine have been to Saudi Arabia. And also, even young doctors and dentists moved to America. So just because you block one source doesn’t mean other places won’t open,” he said.

Go forward

While commending the government for the health budget increase of 2023, Mr. Olaitan, who is the new National Chairman of NARD, recommended the implementation of what is commonly known as the Abuja Declaration of 2001, which prescribes at least 15% of budget allocation to health.

“We have 24,000, but we don’t have facilities that can train as many doctors as we do. And we don’t have facilities that can absorb as many doctors as we do.

“So we shouldn’t let the government get away with feeling that doctors leaving Nigeria are our main headache today,” he said.

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