THE National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD’s, recent alarm of a looming mass migration of no less than 4,000 of its members in the nearest future should call for an emergency meeting of President Muhammadu Buhari’s government with the medical service unions to discuss the stoppage of such a haemorrhage.
But, of course, no such a thing may happen because those we elected had for long abandoned the Nigerian healthcare system for treatment abroad. Successive presidential families since 1999 had turned treatment abroad into a fad, unlike the earlier practice where the State House Clinic was properly equipped to take care of them.
The late Mrs Stella Obasanjo received medicare abroad. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua received treatment in Europe and Saudi Arabia till his demise, and the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan also got medicare outside the country. The most celebrated presidential treatment is that of the incumbent president who once spent over three months in a London infirmary and goes there routinely for follow-ups.
The State House Clinic itself which used to receive more budgetary allocation than all the University Teaching Hospitals in the country, has altogether been abandoned because the people who are supposed to use it no longer have use for it.
Because of this neglect, our doctors have steadily been leaving. When the Buhari administration assumed office in 2015, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, reported that Nigeria had 35,000 doctors out of the 237,000 required to serve a population of about 180 million then. Over seven years later, the number of doctors available in our health system dropped to 24,000 while the population rose to an estimated 211 million.
NARD’s announcement that 4,000 its members are leaving is not surprising. Health workers are in hot demand all over the world, particularly in countries with advanced systems. Two of them, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom in recent years, sent personnel to scout for, or opened their doors to employ our willing doctors. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, despite the migration trend, insists Nigeria has enough doctors.
The consequence of this is that the few doctors who are still available, especially in government hospitals, are over-worked, underpaid and under-motivated. This, certainly, is a trigger for more migrations to places where they will get job satisfaction.
Nigerians have already lost hope that the incumbent regime can do anything about our healthcare system. It has only six months to go. Our attention should shift to the need to elect leaders who have the mindset to revive our health system. Adequately equipping our public hospitals and offering competitive welfare packages for our doctors and other health sector workers can stop and reverse the exoduses. This is in addition to squarely facing challenges in the training of more doctors for our teeming population.