ON November 22, 2022, Professor Abiodun Otegbayo, the Chief Medical Director of one of Nigeria’s foremost tertiary health institutions, the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, disclosed at a news conference marking the 65th Founder’s Day celebration of UCH in Ibadan that between 2020 and October 15, 2022, no fewer than 600 clinical staff had left the hospital. Another news report by the UK government in August this year reveals that 13,609 Nigerian healthcare workers were granted working visas within the period and the report says they are second only to the 42,966 from India. Going by these figures, the UK is the most preferred destination for migrating Nigerian health workers. These statistics point to the reality that the emigration of medical workers from Nigeria has been on the increase in recent years, yet it seems that measures have not been adequately put in place by the Nigerian government to mitigate this disaster.
In Nigeria, the foremost concerns of healthcare workers are improved incentives and welfare, the issue of poor and delayed salaries, and terrible working conditions due to the decay in the health sector. These concerns have led to incessant doctors’ strikes in recent years. In 2017, a study conducted by Adeloye et al revealed that the migration of doctors to developed countries has been linked to staff and skills shortages in the Nigerian health system. This study shows that many medical doctors’ migration is closely linked to their desire to increase their earnings and get the best possible education. Since it would be ridiculous of the Nigerian government to prevent medical doctors, who naturally should have the freedom to choose where they work or study in any part of the world, from emigrating, the government needs to start focusing its efforts on addressing the cause of the desire to migrate which is the lack of a properly functioning healthcare system.
For there to be a properly functioning healthcare system, it is imperative for the federal, state, and LGs to expand their health budgets in line with the harsh realities of the moment and the requirements of the World Health Organization. Efforts should also be geared towards investing in the building of modern facilities in hospitals for medical workers and patients alike to have an enabling, friendly environment to thrive and heal.
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In December 2021, the government increased the monthly hazard allowance for doctors from N5,000 to between N32,000 and N40,000; other health workers like nurses, and laboratory workers among others had theirs reviewed to between N15,000 and N34,000. This is a good starting point. However, as of September 2022, Ayuba Wabba, the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), disclosed that the allowance had been reviewed but payment is yet to begin. As noted by Mr. Wabba, hazard allowance will boost the morale of our health workers in the country. While also speaking at the same event of the 2022 annual Federal Capital Territory Nurses Week/Scientific Workshop of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives in Abuja, the National President of NANNM, Mr. Nnachi Michael, said that the nurses were working in a very difficult environment and that is why they keep talking about brain drain. He said that if nothing was done to arrest the trend, the health sector might collapse and urged the federal government to dedicate 15 percent of the annual national budget to the health sector. Besides, Mr. Nnachi hinted that workload tends to affect healthcare workers because they are also human beings, adding that other incentives necessary would reduce brain drain.
The Nigerian government should stop paying lip service to healthcare delivery and invest in the health of Nigerians. Every effort must be made by the government, policy makers and decision-making bodies to reduce the brain drain currently bedeviling Nigeria’s healthcare sector.
- Ikuerowo writes in from the University of Ibadan