Lagos, Nigeria – In a concerning revelation, the International College of Surgeons, Nigerian Section (ICS-NS), has highlighted the exodus of doctors from Nigeria to the United Kingdom, stating that the country has lost a staggering 6,221 doctors over the past six years. This brain drain has significantly impacted healthcare access, leaving over 40 million Nigerians struggling to find medical assistance, as the patient-to-doctor ratio has surged to alarming levels.
During the 56th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference held in Lagos over the weekend, Prof. Akanimo Essiet, President of the ICS-NS, and Prof. Lucky Onotai, Secretary-General, released a communique emphasizing the dire consequences of this trend. They expressed their concern over the “JAPA” phenomenon, a trendy term used to describe the emigration of both regular and highly skilled professionals seeking better opportunities abroad. The dissatisfied workforce and desire for greener pastures have pushed a staggering 87 percent of Nigerian doctors to consider traveling abroad.
The data provided by the ICS-NS reveals a significant disparity between the patient-to-doctor ratio in Nigeria and the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended standards. Prior to 2022, Nigeria had a ratio of 1 doctor to 4,000 patients, while the WHO recommends a ratio of 1 doctor to 600 patients. The situation has further deteriorated as the number of registered Nigerian doctors in the UK surged from 4,765 in 2017 to a staggering 10,986 in 2023. This alarming trend signifies the loss of 6,221 doctors to the UK within the past six years, making it increasingly challenging for over 40 million Nigerians to access proper medical care.
The weakening Nigerian currency against the US dollar has worsened the situation for healthcare professionals, with their earnings now ranging between one-fifth to one-tenth of what their foreign counterparts earn. The ICS-NS advocates for a gradual transformation of Nigeria’s healthcare policy, shifting from predominantly out-of-pocket financing to a National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) financed method. They propose encouraging private sector-led healthcare mega businesses with effective regulation to boost funding for healthcare services. These reforms would result in improved remuneration for healthcare workers, better healthcare facilities, and enhanced access to quality healthcare for all Nigerians.
In addition to the healthcare workforce crisis, the ICS-NS highlights the alarming security situation in the country, which has had a detrimental impact on the overall health status of Nigerians. The college urges the government to take decisive action in bringing the security situation under control to ensure the well-being of the population.
Addressing these pressing concerns, the ICS-NS strongly recommends the establishment of universal health coverage at the national, state, and local government levels. They propose the growth of an insurance fund and the provision of equitable payments to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) and healthcare providers. Furthermore, access to capital should be made more accessible and affordable for investors in the health sector.
To address the shortage of healthcare workers in certain areas, the ICS-NS calls upon state and local governments to attract healthcare professionals by providing improved healthcare facilities, well-maintained roads, reliable electricity supply, access to clean drinking water, excellent educational institutions, and robust telecommunication infrastructure.
Additionally, the ICS-NS appeals to the government at all levels to support their surgical missions by collaborating and providing necessary funding to ensure excellent surgical care delivery to Nigerians.
In order to achieve these goals, the ICS-NS emphasizes the urgent need to significantly improve the budgetary allocation for healthcare, ultimately reaching the WHO’s recommended percentage of the national budget.
As Nigeria grapples with the loss of thousands of doctors and a mounting healthcare crisis, urgent reforms and strategic investments in the sector are imperative to ensure the well-being and improved access to quality healthcare for all Nigerians.