A former member, House of Representatives, Rep. Ladi Adebutu, says Nigeria currently needs no fewer than 303,000 doctors to cover the missing gap of physician-patient ratio.
Adebutu made the disclosure at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and Scientific Conference of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Ogun chapter, on Wednesday in Abeokuta.
The theme of the AGM is “Skill Repatriation in the Health Sector; Turning Nigeria’s Brain Drain to Brain Gain.”
Adebutu, the Chairman, House Committee on Rural Development at the eighth National Assembly, said that the theme was very germane, not only to the health sector but also to the nation’s general wellbeing.
The former parliamentarian said that the issue should be given utmost attention before its effects lead to perpetual depreciation of quality healthcare service which ultimately would result in a very poor quality of life.
He explained that the continuous migration of doctors had further worsened the physician-patient ratio in Nigeria from 1:4,000 to 1:5,000, contrary to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommendation of 1:600.
“The UK employs at least 12 new Nigerian doctors per week, while 88 per cent of these professionals currently in the West African country is planning to migrate.
“The Net Operating Income (NOI) Polls has revealed how this ticking time bomb has eaten deeply into our healthcare system in Nigeria.
“The low doctor-to-patient ratio is leading to unnecessary fatalities, avoidable deaths, longer-waiting times, more frequent medical errors and a general deterioration in the health of Nigerians.
“Our loss enriches other country’s health system via medical tourism.
“The country has about 75,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, with only approximately 35,000 practicings in Nigeria.
“The question we should ask ourselves is where are the other 40,000 doctors?,” Adebutu said.
According to him, for the health sector to improve, the government should readily make available good salary scale, emoluments and welfare packages for health workers.
Others are incentives such as low taxes and deductions, improved working conditions, priority to budgetary allocations and creating opportunities to reduce the knowledge gap by providing training and re-training for the purpose of upgrade.
Adebutu urged the ninth assembly to sign bills that would make all these available to the doctors and the healthcare system in the country.
“It is my belief that the current committees of the ninth House of Representatives will take it up from where we stopped, and ensure a proper bill is passed to address these issues,” he added.
In his address, the state Chairman of NMA, Dr Ismail Lawal, decried the attitude of government and political office holders at all levels toward the health sector.
“Brain drain is no longer a coming time bomb, but we are witnessing and living with the side effects,” Lawal said.
He, however, commended Gov. Dapo Abiodun, for his eagerness to reactivate the dying health system in Ogun.
According to Lawal, some areas that need urgent attention include rehabilitation of primary healthcare centres, upgrading of secondary healthcare services and total overhauling of the only tertiary health institution in the state.