Nigeria is facing a serious brain drain in its healthcare sector, with the loss of over 1,700 nurses in a single month, according to Dr Tanko Sununu, the Chairman of the House Committee on healthcare services. Speaking on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, Sununu highlighted the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s healthcare system.
“In one month, we lost over 1,700 nurses, that means getting to 17,000 to 18,000 in a year,” he said. “COVID-19 has done so much damage to healthcare practice in the country. Over the years the number of casualties we have among healthcare practitioners is so high, thereby creating a lot of vacancies.”
Sununu emphasized the need for more healthcare practitioners to cater to Nigeria’s large population. “Now if you look at providing care, definitely the number we have is grossly inadequate and unacceptable because where we are supposed to have a doctor to 6,000 people, now we are talking about 33,000,” he said.
The Chairman also pointed out that the shortage of healthcare practitioners has resulted in patients being neglected. “You find out if you go to a general hospital, a doctor is the one running the clinic, running the theater and taking calls 24 hours,” he said.
The loss of healthcare workers to other countries has been a long-standing issue in Nigeria. Many professionals have cited poor working conditions, low salaries, and a lack of equipment as reasons for leaving the country. According to a report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, about 50,000 medical doctors have left the country in the last 20 years.
Sununu warned that the brain drain could turn into a storm, with devastating consequences for Nigeria’s healthcare sector. “What we are having and what we are going to have may not likely be a brain drain; I called it a storm,” he said.
Recall that lawmakers are proposing five years mandatory service by Nigerian-trained medical doctors before they are given full thier practicing license. The proposed bill, which seeks to amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act 2004, aims to address the brain drain in the health sector. The bill mandates Nigerian-trained medical and dental professionals to practice for five years before getting a full license
The proposed bill has received mixed reactions from stakeholders in the healthcare sector. Some have criticized the five-year mandatory practice, arguing that it would be difficult to enforce and could lead to the loss of more healthcare workers. Others have welcomed the bill as a step in the right direction.
Dr. Abubakar Danladi, the Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association in Adamawa State, said the bill being proposed by the House of Representatives could help to address the brain drain but added that more needs to be done to improve the working conditions of healthcare workers in the country.
“Salary is the major issue that is driving healthcare workers out of Nigeria. If we can address that, we can reduce the brain drain,” he said.
As Nigeria continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic and the shortage of healthcare practitioners, the Nigerian government must make more efforts to provide incentives that will encourage these health workers to stay and provide quality service for the Nigeria population. Efforts need to be made by both the government and private sector to fix the brain drain in the health sector.