HEALTH minister Dr Chris Ngige has dismissed the ongoing crisis in Nigeria’s health sector involving the mass departure of doctors saying the United Nations (UN) target of one physician to 600 patients is unattainable for the country.
In what is considered a huge brain drain crisis, doctors trained in Nigeria rush abroad, particularly to the UK and Canada in search of work where they get better remuneration packages and working conditions. Last month, things took a turn for the worse when Saudi Arabia began an aggressive recruitment of Nigerian doctors using a government-licensed recruiting agency based in Abuja known as Meed Consultants.
Pressed on the implications this will have for the Nigerian health sector, Dr Ngige, himself a medical doctor, said that as a developing country, Nigeria was unlikely to meet the recommendation of the UN and the World Health Organisation’s ratio of one doctor to 600 patients. Speaking at the two-day quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Health Commissioners Forum in Abuja, he said he was not bothered about the mass exodus.
Dr Ngige said: “We’re not a United Nations’ country, we are a developing country, so, when such figures are given I will tell them every rule has an exception. We are not yet there, so we shall make do with what we have.
We have surplus doctors and I keep on telling them that we have not deployed our medical manpower proportionately and adequately as we should do. How many doctors do we have in the rural areas and in the suburbs since everybody is in the townships, with a medical and dental council data showing 4,000 doctors every year.
“Before, it used to be 3000, before the private universities came a lot of them are not doing medicine, including Afe Babalola and others. We are now in about 4000 plus, the people even trained abroad are coming back from Russia and Ukraine, and the rest of them all Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria is registering them.”
Professor Akin Abayomi, the Lagos State health commissioner, used the occasion to call on state’s governors to create an enabling environment for physicians in their states. Speaking at the get-together, he added that there were more than 20,000 Nigerian born physicians outside the country doing extremely well.