As Nigeria battles with brain drain in the health sector with a ratio of one doctor to 6,000 patients, medical doctors have urged the government to look beyond the minimum wage and come up with a proper welfare package to end the migration of health professionals abroad.
Speaking at the Good Health Weekly on Vanguard Live the experts maintained that while the minimum wage is good, it is not the ultimate now that an estimated eight out of every 10 doctors are contemplating leaving the country for a greener pasture and about four leave every month.
The medical doctors, Dr. Saliu Oseni, Lagos State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, a General Surgeon at the Ikorodu General Hospital, Lagos, and Dr. Moruf Abdulsalam, Publicity Secretary, Lagos NMA and a Paediatric Surgeon, at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, agreed that with proper welfare package, Nigerian doctors will remain in the country. Excerpts:
We have internal grading and external grading. The internal one is so that we have medical personnel moving from the State institutions to more comfortable Federal institutions while the external is when you have either of them leaving the country for greener pasture. The causes are quite enormous.
The main cause is actually around remuneration. The remuneration of health providers is quite poor compared to their contemporaries all over the world. The condition of service is poor, the environment of service is poor, facilities available to run the services is also poor.
The recent attack on health workers is demoralising and very subsuming for the health practitioner and indeed we have situations where even those that are here are actually encouraging more to leave and the real fear is such that the succession period, the gap between the young ones coming in and the older ones that have been in the system is going to have a very grievous effect, such that by the time the younger ones are coming into service, the older ones are actually putting the younger ones through what they are supposed to know and they are going to have a wide gap and that is why we have been advocating that government should learn to do exit replacement on time.
The eventual problem will be that we may end up not having good health delivery because of the lack of qualified personnel.
Conditions of service
The government is responsible for the conditions of service and remuneration, but the other truth is that we as citizens have not actually been monitoring our leaders.
The health providers are actually working in a very unconducive environment but because we are trained to care for our people, doctors have taken oath to save lives not to take blame because when you have a dying patient coming in, all you want to do is to see what you can do to save the patient, but by the time you are being accused of murder then it is demoralising.
So the public needs to understand what rights and privileges are. Yes, it is your right to good health but the truth of the matter is the doctor has no absolute control over providing that good health.