Aside from the apathy the government is demonstrating towards the health sector, other causes pointed out by medical experts are low infrastructural development, a low income rate, and the improvisation of medical equipment.

Nigeria’s healthcare is currently facing a tough time as doctors are allegedly leaving for better opportunities. According to a report gleaned by The Punch Newspapers from the General Medical Council, about 1,197 Nigerian-trained doctors moved to the United Kingdom from May 29, 2023, to December 4, 2023. Though about 1,197 Nigerian-trained doctors were licensed between May 29, 2023, and December 1, 2023, the report says the total number of Nigerian doctors licensed to practice in the UK is now 12,198. Arguably, from January 2023 until date, at least one thousand doctors left the country monthly to practice in the UK.

In September 2023 also, the Doctors Association of Nigeria revealed in total that over 5000 Nigerian doctors fled abroad.

The brain drain in the medical sector is over the numbers as Nigerian-trained doctors leave the country on a daily basis. While this article is being read, one doctor is leaving or making plans to leave Nigeria. The effect of this on the health sector cannot be reckoned with because Nigerians keep suffering from inadequate healthcare due to the low number of experts left in the country. President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Emeka Orji, said that as opposed to the 16,000 members the association used to have five years ago, there are just approximately 12,000 resident doctors left.

With infinitesimal expert doctors left, unorthodox healthcare cannot be avoided, which will lead to a surge in illegal medical establishments. Equally, poor healthcare and the deterioration of the health status of Nigerians are inevitable effects of this drain. As much as doctors leave the country, the death rates will continue to go high because when citizens suffer poor healthcare, dire effects like death are imminent.

Records show that the number of doctors practicing in the country is extremely low; doctors are either leaving the country or are retiring. Equally, those who do not leave nor retire are either emerging practitioners who are not qualified enough or minute experts. There is only a loose end to this; there is no room for replacement.

Precisely, if Nigeria increases the rate at which it produces doctors annually to make up for medical emigrants, Prof. Aminu Muhammad, the president of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, said that it would take Nigeria 10 years to replace the 500 doctors who recently left Nigeria in search of greener pastures. Ten years is not a walk in the park; if the deteriorating situation persists, the health sector will already be writhing in chaos. The only ones stopping healthcare from falling off the cliff are the few experts who might sooner or later leave the country.

Root Causes

Nurse Divine Ajayi, an expert nurse who practices at Covenant University Medical Centre, shared the root causes of the continued brain drain in the health sector. 

Giving insights into the major causes of this consistent brain drain, Nurse Divine said, among other factors, that the nonchalant attitude of the Nigerian government is the root cause. According to her, government apathy towards the health sector creates other reasons for the brain drain.

Aside from the apathy the government is demonstrating towards the health sector, other causes pointed out by medical experts are low infrastructural development, a low income rate, and the improvisation of medical equipment.

The medical equipment improvised in most medical centers is out of date and not suitable for practice. Poor infrastructure in medical centers does not in any way boost practitioners’ morale, and this can only lead to a bad attitude toward work or job relocation.

Equally, low infrastructural development keeps not only the health sector but also Nigeria backward in health facilities. Compared to the healthcare sector in other countries like the US, Japan, and the like, Nigerian healthcare is way behind in advancement. Not only that, in Africa, the Nigerian healthcare sector is one of the worst. Speaking of the impact the phenomenon will have on the health sector, she noted that low usage of accredited health facilities and higher patronage of unorthodox healthcare are inevitable.

Emphasizing work motivation, the health expert noted that the low-income rate and little or no employee benefits contribute to the deteriorating situation. Workers must be constantly rewarded for their hard work. Giving little or no preference to motivate them will avail them of no choice but to seek greener pastures in other climes, she asserted.

The route to transition

While the causes of the brain drain are being identified, the one million dollar question to ask is: will the Nigerian government do anything worthwhile to stop this phenomenon from becoming a monster that will collapse the health sector?

The draconian bills passed against the health sector by the House of Representatives to mandate graduates in medical and dental fields “to render services within Nigeria for five years before being granted full license” is not the way forward.

Though the sponsor of the bill revealed the motive in checking the mass exodus of medical professionals from the country, it only shows that the general apathy demonstrated by the government is nothing to write home about.

Nigerian government apathy plays a substantial role in the departure of skilled doctors. The government needs to reevaluate its approach and provide an environment where healthcare professionals have the liberty to contribute significantly to the nation’s well-being. 

Apparently, the sector is now in dire need of medical brains, which are hard to come by with the current surge in job relocation. It is also left to the Nigerian government to work with medical experts in finding ways to retain and attract medical practitioners to work within the country. A proactive stance, empowering doctors with the freedom to thrive, is not just a suggestion; it’s a call to action for a healthier and more robust healthcare system that benefits all Nigerians. The time is now for the government to embrace change, ensuring that Nigerian skilled medical experts are motivated to stay and contribute to the nation’s prosperity.

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