Dr. Philip Ugbodaga is former chairman, Edo State chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association and currently the Medical Director, Central Hospital, Benin City. He spoke to ALEMMA-OZIORUVA ALIU in Benin City.
Why is Nigeria still experiencing the brain drain of medical personnel?
It is quite unfortunate that close to 60 years after independence, Nigeria is still unable to have a robust healthcare system, efficient and responsive to the medical needs of its citizens. Our health indices are among the worst in the world.
Those Nigerian-trained doctors leaving the country complain of poor working environment, inadequate remuneration and poor facilities. But the main reason is financial stability.
How can the situation be reversed?
The solution is simple, but it requires political will, interest and a deliberate policy to energise the healthcare sector.
Any nation that wishes to develop must invest heavily in health and education. These are the two pillars of development, which we cannot afford to run away from.
I am greatly enthused that many states are beginning to understand the nexus between healthcare, education and development.
A state like Edo is laying a very solid foundation for the healthcare system with a rejuvenated Primary Health Care model and other policies that place specific emphasis on infrastructure, technology, remuneration and skilled manpower.
Do you have any statistics of doctors leaving the country?
It is difficult to ascertain the exact number, but it is estimated that between 800 to 1,000 doctors leave Nigeria yearly. In the U.K. for example, Nigerian doctors contribute about 2 per cent of the medical workforce.
This might even be more in the United States of America and elsewhere. It is also estimated that more than 40,000 of the 75,000 registered Nigerian medical doctors are practicing outside the country.
What number of medical doctors do we currently have in Nigeria?
I believe we have more than 75,000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). This is the body statutorily empowered to regulate medical practice in the country. I also believe that only about half of this number is actually available to care for our people, which is quite unfortunate and very depressing.
What numbers are presumed adequate?
By the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Nigeria needs over 300,000 doctors to adequately care for its estimated 180 million population.
The tragedy, however, is that the majority of our highly trained medical workforce are currently practicing outside the country.
The expertise of these doctors is required here. Our people, especially at the grassroots, need their skills, but they are outside our shores.
So, whereas in America you have one medical doctor caring for 300 patients, here in Nigeria you have one medical doctor caring for over 4,000. This is against the WHO recommendation of 1:600.
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