The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), which claims that there is a pull and push syndrome affecting doctors and other healthcare workers leaving the country, called on the federal and all state governments to declare a state of emergency in the health sector to address the problem of brain drain among medical doctors.
Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman of the NMA Lagos Branch, claimed that the brain drain problem has been decimating the nation’s healthcare industry and that more than 1,800 healthcare professionals departed the nation in December 2022 in search of better opportunities.
He stated this during an event in Lagos that was organised by the Global Health Advocacy Incubator in collaboration with the Legislative Initiative For Sustainable Development for stakeholders to engage with political party leadership and a candidate for governor.
Olowojebutu warned that medicine as a profession “might go into extinction” in the country if the problem persists.
“There is a very big challenge about brain drain. I have said several times that we have to be very deliberate about how we tackle this. There is a pull and push syndrome that is affecting doctors leaving Lagos State,” he declared.
“During COVID-19 in 2020, 81 doctors moved from Lagos to the UK. They had a special plane that came to carry them from the UK. Between March 2020 and October 2022, we lost 507 doctors from Lagos state to the UK.
“In December 2022 alone, we lost over 1,800 doctors and other healthcare workers to brain drain. We need to think of how to make healthcare attractive and sustainable.
“Before, we used to have young doctors traveling abroad for greener pastures, but now, even the consultants that are supposed to be training the young doctors are leaving the country.
“There is a dearth of doctors in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State. Some places don’t have specialties anymore because the specialists have left the country at this time”.
Olowojebutu urged the government to “critically treat the issue as an emergency” and solve the problem.
Corroborating his views, Chairman of the Medical Guild, Lagos State, Dr Sa’ eid Ahmad called on gubernatorial candidates in Lagos State to prioritise healthcare financing, saying that budgetary allocation to health must meet the World Health Organisation’s minimum of 15 percent.
He said that the government must focus on the upgrade of existing medical facilities and medical human resources retention strategies.
“Rather than spend this budget on ‘constructing new health institutions,’ existing ones should be upgraded with emphasis on medical human resources retention strategies.
“Political leadership of Lagos State need to ensure upward review of health workers’ hazard allowance, which has remained N5,000 for more than 30 years.
“Lagos healthcare workers want immediate implementation of the hazard allowance structure based on the consolidated basic medical/health salary as proposed by the medical and health unions to the Lagos State Subcommittee on Review of Hazard Allowance,” he said.
Nigeria Has 10,000 Patients Per Doctor, According To NMA
Speaking on the rationale behind the engagement, Project Director, Prevent Epidemics Project, Dr. Gafar Alawode said that the forthcoming general elections come with a policy-reset window that can be leveraged to engage the political class, deepen their understanding of key health policy thrusts, and secure their buy-in.
“We expect this engagement to facilitate the implementation of the identified key policy priorities in the next political dispensation.
As part of efforts geared towards repositioning the health and health security landscape of Lagos State, the critical stakeholders take advantage of the policy-reset window that comes with the general election to put the health and health security agenda on the political front burner in the state.
“This engagement helps us to deepen the understanding of the political class and other stakeholders on the health security gaps and acquaint them with available strategic policy options for strengthening the health and health security legal, policy, and financing landscape in Lagos State.
“We also seize this opportunity to encourage the candidates to prioritize health and health security in their development agenda and obtain commitments from the candidates towards enhanced prioritization of health and health security in government spending, among other things.”
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