There is a mass exodus of Nigerian doctors out of Nigeria. Earlier this year, the British National Health Service (NHS) revealed that Nigerian medical practitioners constitute 3.9 per cent of the 137,000 foreign staff of 202 nationalities working alongside British doctors and nurses. There are no fewer than 5,405 Nigerian-trained doctors living and working in the UK. It’s not just the UK though, a 2017 survey showed that the UK, US and Canada are the top destinations for Nigerian doctors, with South Africa as the top destination in Africa.
Figures from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) show that about 45,000 doctors are registered to practice in Nigeria. This means that 12% of 45,000 Nigerian doctors (5,405) are practising in the UK, and taking into account those practising in the US, Canada, South Africa, Saudi Arabia etc, we estimate that Nigeria now has less than 35,000 doctors in a country of almost 200 million people.
Why are Nigerian doctors leaving Nigeria? The answer is really simple. Poor working conditions, low pay, poor funding, lack of infrastructure and general neglect.
Nigeria had a doctor-patient ratio of 1:4,000 which has now worsened to 1:5,000because of the mass migration of doctors. The most popular destination for the doctors, the UK, has a doctor-patient ratio of 1:300. The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommends 1:600. According to the WHO, countries with low doctor-patient ratios have worse disease outcomes and way lower life expectancy. Nigeria needs 237,000 doctors, but currently has 35,000.
It is really unfortunate that Nigeria is using her severely limited resources to train doctors and professionals who will eventually leave to work in foreign countries. We know exactly what about those foreign countries attracts our medical professionals. Why can’t we duplicate those conditions here? Why can’t Nigeria pay its doctors properly and on time? Why are the people who are essentially the only things standing between Nigerians and death underpaid without benefits?
A medical degree is essentially an international passport and a visa in one, but our government is sitting and watching the talent drain. It’s a shame, really.