As 1 cardiologist treats 400,000 Nigerians
By Juliet Umeh
More revelations emerged weekend that the brain drain in the country’s health system has become a time bomb.
Currently, Findings by Good Health Weekly, weekend show that the acute shortage of medical workers in the country’s health system, particularly, specialist in the field of cardiology is constituting a challenge as prompt and proper medical care for patients with heart related disorders and other specialist care are becoming more difficult by the day.
Statistics obtained by Good Health Weekly, showed that one cardiologist attends to 400, 000 patients in Nigeria.
According to Nigerian Cardiologists under the auspices of the Nigerian Cardiac Society, NSC the federal government must build up stronger infrastructures and attend to the welfare needs of medical manpower in the country to avoid a time bomb of brain drain.
At the 50th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference in Lagos with the theme: ‘Delivering cardiovascular care in an emergency situation’, they lamented that despite the fact that cardiovascular diseases are on the rise, there is a massive brain drain of cardiologists induced by the poor working environment.
Speaking, the President of the Association, Dr Ikechukwu Oga, who is also a Consultant Cardiologist at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, lamented the ratio of cardiologists to patients in Nigeria saying that currently, the country has one doctor to 400, 000 patients.
He said: “We have about 500 cardiologists to over 200 million populations and it is possible that these 500 cardiologists are less because a lot of our people are migrating out of the country for lack of job satisfaction, monitory and otherwise.
“Averagely, we probably produce about 10 cardiologists per year. And, we are losing a lot, even those practising are largely concentrated in the big cities.
“Despite all these problems, we are making a lot of strides in the profession. Some years ago, we couldn’t do open-heart surgeries in many places in this country, we can’t even do what we call invasive procedures and noninvasive procedures in many places yet some of these things are being developed in many centres now
“Times are hard but we are also working hard to make sure that patients don’t have to be going to India to have all these things.
“Since 2015, our members have carried out over 1000 surgeries in the country despite the problems and with good results.
“So it means that if all these centres are properly funded, we will have job satisfaction, we can do more and then keep the money that people are trading outside in the name of medical tourism into the economy,” Oga added.
Also speaking, Consultant Cardiologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH Prof. Amam Mbakwem, said the annoying thing is that as they are training, they’re leaving.
She said so many things are causing their migration.
Mbakwem said: “First of all, the facilities where we practice; the hospitals don’t give you tools you need to practice the skills that you have that is on one side.
“And then, what our colleagues do outside, we have to struggle to do it here and then after doing it, we are not paid anything commensurable.”
She added: “Again, Nigeria is bleeding money because this is one place where we spend peanut to train doctors, most of the time, it is the government’s money that we use to train doctors. And then you finish training them and somebody poaches them, and they go to work for somebody else.”
In his view, Professor of Medicine, Rivers State University, Chizindu Alikor, if the trend of migration continues for five to 10 years from now, “we probably will not have doctors and specialist cardiologists available to attend to the health needs of this country.”
He charged the government to wake up in addressing those issues that are responsible for this level of brain drain.
Also, to address the high cost of drugs and consumables, the society urged the government to fully embrace universal health coverage at all levels.