On Thursday, the Speaker of House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila received the leadership of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) ably led by Emeka Orji and the discussion for the resuscitation of Nigeria’s Health System vis a vis migration of health workers emerged.
Recall that Uche Rowland, President of the Nigerian Medical Association disclosed that more than 5,000 Nigerian doctors move to UK in eight years.
Over 4,000 doctors left the shores of the country in search of greener pastures in United States, Canada within two years while more than 3000 medical personnels relocated to South Africa and others.
According to National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), the long-running depletion of Nigeria’s health workforce has taken a turn for the worse with the doctor-to-patient ratio in the country now 1:10,000 as against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation of 1:1,000.
When Femi Gbajabiamila expressed shock over the exodus of medical personnels and described it as ‘scary, it came as a rude shock because politicians do not always conform to details.
They always twist facts especially ones that expose their weaknesses as a public servant.
Gbaja’s acceptance of massive migration was not only shocking, it was interesting too.
His acceptance is in conflict with the declaration of Chris Ngige, a medical doctor and former governor of Anambra State. Ngige, now a two-time minister in 2019 publicly stated that Nigeria has surplus doctors and we should not be bothered about the mass exodus of medical officials.
Recent statistics have shown that we lose hundreds of Nigerian-trained medical professionals to foreign countries every month. Thousands wake up everyday to continue the hustle of seeking greener pastures in foreign countries.
A country in lack of adequate doctors for her citizens as recommended by World Health Organisation (1 doctor for 1000 patients) still experiencing migration of health workers which means nothing to the minister who is responsible for labour. This is supposed to be the height of negligence and absolute disrespect for the citizens especially those battling serious health issues.
From another angle, Ngige seems not to be lost when compared to the reality of present day Nigeria. There are several untrained medical doctors in Nigeria. We have them in every home either as a parent or relative. ‘Agbo’ sellers are doctors. Women who take delivery of pregnant women are doctors too.
Those who claimed salt-water solution for bathing can cure Ebola virus are doctors. Pastors and Islamic clerics act as doctors too. Churches, Islamic organizations and Abiye maternity centres have taken over the duty of government owned maternity wards.
If Ngige, two-time minister of Labour and Productivity claimed that Nigeria have surplus doctors, he should not be crucified. He definitely placed his statistics based on the above analogies.
The more people testify about the greatness of Iya Abiye maternity centres, the more the loss of lives. Hundreds have lost their lives to wrong diagnosis and drugs prescription. People still patronize these local clinics. They tell you that people also die in government hospitals if you make attempt to persuade them from these local clinics.
Why did Femi Gbajabiamila express worry over the exodus of medical personnels? He understands the grave consequences behind the exodus but is he ready to tackle the problems with his powers as the speaker of the house of representatives? No. Nigerian leaders have the ability to identify problems but lack the willness and determination to provide solutions. They prefer to rant, lament than solve.
Government-owned hospitals are in pitiable state. Some hospitals are in lack of modern hospital equipments to make work easier and accurate. The ratio of staff to patients in some hospitals is very high. From laboratory to maternity ward to theater to every section of the hospital, patients crazily outweigh the staff in number, limiting their efficiency and service delivery.
Most medical personnels believe that they do not earn well and there should be a reconsideration of welfare packages. It requires extra-efforts and sacrifices to further their education or expose oneself to learning due to the demands of the jobs. These are few reasons most Nigerian-trained doctors plan their exit as they work.
A check revealed that eight out of ten Nigerian doctors plan to exit the country for greener pastures. Another check revealed that nine out of ten medical students are simply waiting for their final examinations and can not wait to leave this country in search for greener pastures.
Seven out of twelve doctors have lost faith and confidence in the Nigerian government. Three explained how they struggled to graduate from medical schools and the remaining two still owe some debts to clear persons before they could be free. “That’s why I need to travel to UK or Canada to get good job and pay back my mother’s debt”, a rather sad final year medical student.
However, majority of Nigerians especially the poor and middle class have found solace in trado-medical practitioners. You do not need a test to get treated. Study your symptoms and if related, there is always a herbal drug or concoctions to treat the disease.
From malaria drugs to fertility drugs to typhoid to sexual infection drugs among others, the trado-medical practitioners have experienced great advancement. These trado-medical practitioners hide under private clinic registration.
Aside the fertile ground for their business to thrive, drugs produced via herbs seem to have no serious consequences if not abused. It either cures the disease or not.
Some trado-medical practitioners now set up maternity centres with inclusion of treatment for certain diseases. They employ auxiliary nurses and sometimes two laboratory personnel for tests, focusing more on surface wounds, child delivery, malaria and others.
Apart from cheaper fees in some instances and accessibility, they attend to patients timely. These are reasons why disadvantaged and downtrodden people prefer to patronize their services than private or government owned hospitals.
Trado-medical practitioners now share same market with pharmacists, dominating the larger section of the Nigeria’s population. They are extending their wings into provision of medical treatments for disadvantaged Nigerians. The exodus of trained doctors and workers will only allow the business to thrive the more.
Before trado-medical practitioners start handling surgical knives for medical operation, I urge Nigerian government to strengthen the health system and see to the welfare of doctors and nurses to check the exodus of trained medical doctors and personnels.
There must be conscious restoration of the health institution. If trado-medical practitioners start handling surgical knives, we will be losing more than what we bargained for.