By Sola Ogundipe
Brain drain is one of the biggest challenges of the Nigerian health sector. It is no longer news that medical doctors educated and trained in Nigeria end up travelling abroad particularly to the US and the UK in search of greener pasture.
Lately, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Canada, and Australia are becoming attractive destinations for Nigerian medical doctors.
It is on record that no less than 20,000 Nigerian doctors are currently gainfully employed outside the country even as an estimated 8 in 10 doctors are ready to leave the country if given the opportunity.
The poor infrastructural support for medical services in Nigerian hospitals and the range of obsolete equipment and generally unfavourable working conditions confronting doctors and other health workers are reasons for this development.
The unfavourable doctor-to-patient ratio is another issue. The World Health Organisation recommends one doctor to 600 patients, but in Nigeria, the ratio is one doctor to 4,000 patients. This result is that many doctors are overworked.
Poor remuneration is another critical brain drain factor. Compared with their counterparts in other climes, Nigerian doctors are poorly paid, considering the hazardous nature of their work on the frontline on a daily basis.
Closely linked to the poor remuneration is the unavailability of comprehensive life insurance and inadequate hazard allowance. Certainly, the government needs to invest more in the health workforce, particularly doctors to stem the tide of brain drain
In the 1960s and 1970s when Nigeria was the hub for training doctors from across the continent, there was so much potential of the average medical doctor.
At that time, patients from abroad were coming to Nigeria in search of medical tourism. Unfortunately, today the reverse is the case.
Estimates show that Nigeria loses over $1 billion annually to medical tourism. This resource could have been invested in the local healthcare sector.
Looking at the big picture, there is no doubt that Nigeria needs to invest more in the training of medical doctors. Currently, the Federal Colleges of Medicine charge comparatively low fees to train doctors, unlike in the USA, for instance, where medical school fees per annum cost around $100,000 – $200,000 per session.
The fallout of all this is that Nigeria is only providing doctors to the advanced economies and keeping their health systems working to its own detriment.
Although Nigerian doctors can hold their own professionally anywhere in the world, they generally lack the requisite entrepreneurial skills to take advantage of the local healthcare system.
Nigeria has the potential to become a global health destination. This can be attained by addressing the health sector from a solution-based approach.
One way that this is being achieved is by creating innovative solutions. Nigerian doctors are enabled to develop a fundamental mind shift to create the required turnaround for Nigeria in general, and for themselves in particular.
It is out of this necessity that the Dr Abayomi Ajayi Physicians Mentoring Programme was put together.
The Mentoring Programme is a carefully designed initiative put in place to assist the average Nigerian doctor to unveil full potential in the bid to return Nigeria to its path of glory.
Led by Dr Abayomi Ajayi, the CEO of Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, the Physicians Mentoring Programme comprises a select team of 10 successful Nigerian professionals in a diversity of callings.
They are tapping into their wealth of experience to mentor 12 medical doctors in their bid to become successful physicians in their own right.
As part of the programme, the 12 mentees are put through series of web-based training coordinated by a global expert followed by series of presentations delivered by the mentors on diverse areas of leadership, entrepreneurship, and organisational ability.
The programme will be rounded off with individual projects by each of the mentees and the winner is to be specially acknowledged.
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This distinguished team is the resource base that is interacting personally with the mentees and driving a new mode of thought, fueled by professional and entrepreneurial capacity building to grow the new age Nigerian medical doctor.
The Dr Abayomi Ajayi Physicians Mentoring Programme was primarily designed to tackle brain drain and consensus is that this is a task that must be done.
Mentees working with Dr Ajayi to achieve the goal, are Prof. Lanre Fagbohun, the Vice-Chancellor. Lagos State University, LASU; Prof. Bomi Ogedengbe, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH; Mrs Funmi Babington Ashaye, a leading insurance practitioner; Prof. Ebun Adejuyigbe, the Dean, Faculty of Clinical Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and Prof. Deji Adekunle (SAN), former Director-General, Nigeria Institute of Advanced Legal Studies.
Others are Chief (Mrs) Nike Akande, a renowned industrialist; Prof Folasade Ogunsola, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Lagos; Mr Adekunle Oyegade, Medical Director, Mopheth Pharmacy; Prof. Rotimi Akinola, Professor of Obstetrics & Gynecology President of SOGON; Dr Abiodun Eke – Aluko, the co-founder, Premier Hospitals, Lagos, and Engineer Nnamdi Agbin, the MD/CEO Interkel Group, Lagos.