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Physician raises alarm over shortage of neurosurgeons

By Simon Ebegbulem

BENIN—A United Kingdom-based neurosurgeon, Dr Douglas Okor, yesterday raised an alarm over paucity of neurosurgeons in the country, describing as unacceptable, a situation where the nation could only boast of nine neurosurgeons for its 140 million people.

Dr Okor, who raised the alarm while presenting a paper, titled  Emergency Care of Surgical Patients, A Neurosurgeon’s Perspective of Contemporary Issues-The way Forward, at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, expressed worries over the health of Nigerians. He described as heart-aching, a situation where the country has only nine neurosurgeons to take  care of spinal cord related disorders and ailments of 140 million Nigerians.

According to him, “in Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, United Kingdom, where I work, we have not less than 20 neurosurgeons catering for not more than 12 million people in that region.

“It is sad because we have hundreds of Nigerians who are neurosurgeons in different parts of the world but those in power have not been able to bring these people back by motivating them and making the environment conducive for them.”

Dr Okor was a student of the University of Benin, UNIBEN, and UBTH before he traveled to the United Kingdom for further studies.

He lamented that very few medical students were going into the field of neurosurgery because of lack of training personnel and facilities.

According to him, “in UBTH today, we have only one neurosurgeon and the hospital has the highest cases of referrals in the South-South zone of the country, and this has made the job of the man very difficult.

“That is why I decided, through my organization, the Ashanti Graham Health and Education Initiative Foundation, to carry the campaign for improvement in the study of neurosurgery by medical students in Nigeria.”
He added that since last year, the foundation, which was being funded from personal income from his family, had been donating equipment for neurosurgery to the school running into millions of naira.

He said the gesture was not only to make the work of the only neurosurgeon at UBTH  easier, but also provide him facilities to teach medical students and save the lives of Nigerians.

He challenged health sector administrators and governments at all levels to “Nigerianise’ their activities, as foreigners would not help the country to develop.

“We need a paradigm shift in the way we think. If changes are to be effected in any facet or sector of our lives in Nigeria, they will be done only by Nigerians and not foreigners and that is why I have been doing what I am doing,” he said.


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