By Chioma Obinna
Nigeria’s high perinatal mortality rate (period immediately before and after birth) is caused by the unchecked exodus (brain drain) of doctors and other healthcare personnel from the country every year.
The Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, is calling for a change, urging the Federal government to correct the trend to promote fortunes of the nation’s health sector.
The Chairman of the State chapter, Dr Saliu Oseni, who decried the rate at which doctors are leaving the country and the resultant effect on the healthcare system, remarked that government owes the entire health workforce responsibility fo retaining them.
Oseni, who spoke during the Association chapter’s 2019 Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference themed: “Brain Drain in the Medical Profession: Effects on the Nigerian Health System”, observed that Nigeria has one of the worst perinatal mortality figures in the world. The country is also among countries that contribute 67 percent of stillbirths in the world and loses 145 women of childbearing age daily.
“This is why the NMA chose one of its sub-themes: ‘Perinatal Mortality in Nigeria: Appraisal of the Current Situation’ in view of the need to appraise the situation and put measures in place to address the causes especially the role of the unskilled personnel with emphasis on the roles of traditional birth attendants in the care of pregnant women and newborns.
Further, Oseni said: “Thus it becomes important to create adequate, accessible and an affordable healthcare system that would guarantee quality care for pregnant women.”
Admitting that brain drain had positive and negative effects, he said the negative effects are more overwhelming on doctor-patient ratio.
“The World Health Organisation has proved that there is a relationship between the density of healthcare workers and population health outcome. We have continued to compare our system to that of the developed world without putting into consideration the doctor: patient ratio.
“In Nigeria, it is 1 doctor to over 5000 patients compared to places like the UK and US with 2.8 and 2,5 to 1000 patients respectively.
“Also we seem not to take into cognizance the fact that we continually breach ethics and standards in satisfying numbers but they are ever ready to litigate us for any error that arises from work overload, welfare packages like improved remuneration, reduced taxation and better working environment will go a long way to prevent manpower migration.”
On Universal Healthcare Coverage, Oseni lamented that the private sector has been long sidelined and abandoned in their primary role of achieving universal healthcare coverage.
“The ideal standard of available health service should be within trekkable distance and within that distance we have private medical facilities that can collaborate appropriately with public facilities that can reach out to the public to make services easily accessible to Nigerians.”
He said private facilities should be supported by the government in terms of single digit loan that will be easy to repay as well as prevent multiple taxations and proper health financing among others.
In his keynote address, the Chief Medical Director, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, Dr Adetokunbo Fabamwo, said there was need for government to fund the health sector in order to address brain drain.
According to Fabamwo, the Nigerian government must do something drastic to keep health workers home.
Proffering solution to brain drain, he said: There should be improved wages in the sector. There should be a conducive work environment, and expand the post-graduate training spots for young doctors.
He regretted that the National Health Act, NHA, was yet to be implemented, adding that there were provisions in the Act that should have addressed these challenges.
“One per cent of the consolidated revenue that is supposed to be used to revamp the health sector, if only this can be done, then all the other remedies can be achieved. “
Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibironke Sanwo-Olu called for deliberate policies that would promote adequate remuneration for doctors, provision of health equipment and infrastructure, as well as scaling up of the Health Insurance Scheme, NHIS.
Sanwo-Olu decried the rate at which doctors are leaving the country, noting that factors encouraging Nigerian doctors to leave in droves should be discouraged.