By Joseph Erunke, Abuja

Over 9,000 medical doctors of Nigerian origin left the shores of the country in search of greener pastures in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada in two years, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has said.

The emigration of the medical experts which the NMA said happened between 2016 and 2018, negatively impacted the nation’s health care system that only 4.7% of specialists were left to take care of Nigerians’ health issues.

NMA President, Professor Innocent Ujah, speaking in Abuja, lamented the high emigration rate of doctors of Nigerian extraction to foreign nations.

Ujah who spoke at the NMA’s maiden annual lecture with a theme: “Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin Evil in Nigeria’s Health System”, also said over $1 billion was being spent yearly by Nigerians on medical tourism.

Regretting that the development was negatively impacting the nation’s health system, Prof. Ujah, who is also the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Medical Science, Otukpo, said Africa, including Nigeria, was encountering a health workforce crisis.

Noting that human resources for health, which according to him, represented “one of the six pillars of a strong and efficient health system”, was critical to the improvement the health system, the professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said a huge amount Nigerians were injecting into medical tourism was weakening Nigeria’s economy.

The impact of the development on the economy, he said was a reduction of funding and investment in the health sector, widening infrastructural deficits and the growing distrust in the Nigerian health system by the Nigerian public. 

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), sub-Saharan Africa has about 3 per cent of the world’s health workers while it accounts for 24 per cent of the global burden of disease. Nigeria has a doctor-to-population ratio of about 1: 4000-5000 which falls far short of the WHO recommended doctor-to-population ratio of 1:600. Nigeria is still grappling with disturbingly poor health indices,” he said.

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According to him, “The Nigerian health sector today groans under the devastating impact of huge human capital flight which now manifests as  brain drain.”

The theme of the lecture, he noted, was apt, adding, “The twin monster of brain drain and medical tourism seems to have a bi-directional relationship, which implies that one will lead to the other and vice-versa.”

“It is because of the devastating consequences of this twin evil on the health system efficiency and effectiveness and the urgent need for solutions and action that inspired the theme for this maiden NMA Annual Lecture tagged, Brain Drain and Medical Tourism: The Twin evil in Nigeria’s Health System.

“The burning desire of NMA to proactively confront the many challenges of healthcare delivery in Nigeria must be sustained using evidence-based constructive engagement, high-level advocacy and understanding to achieve quality healthcare for our people so as to reduce the unacceptably high morbidity and mortality.

“This national discourse on brain drain and medical tourism is, therefore, inevitable at this time and it is only right, just and appropriate for Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) to take the lead, being the leader of the health team”, he further said.

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