A major problem that Africa has been suffering from over the years is the high rate of brain drain that takes highly competent personnel in important areas from the continent to foreign countries, making their service very scarce in their respective countries. A report released by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation revealed that African countries footed a bill of $4.6 billion in training doctors who were later recruited by the UK, USA, CANADA and AUSTRALIA.
The current country suffering from this canker is Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria. With an estimated population figure of over 180 million people, Nigeria is supposed to have a considerable number of doctors to handle the higher demands for health service delivery across the country. Unfortunately, certain situations are forcing Nigerian doctors to choose foreign countries over their own country.
Some of the reasons quoted for this mass exodus of trained doctors from the country are, better facilities and work environment, higher salaries, career progression and an improved quality of life. Successive governments have been criticized strongly for the low budget allocation to the sector, leading to the underfunding of health activities and remuneration of doctors. According to reports, a doctor in Nigeria earns about N200, 000 ($560) monthly, relative to the high salaries and better opportunities offered by these foreign countries.
Nations such as the British, America, Emirati, Saudi Arabia and many others are taking advantage of the existing situation in the country by setting up agencies that sells their offers, recruit most of the best doctors and migrate them out of the country. About 4000 Nigerian doctors are reported to be practicing in the USA, with 5000 currently registered in the UK according to the BBC. The remaining have spread across Canada, Australia, among others.
As it stands now, brain drain has become a serious issue of concern in the Nigerian Health sector. According to the Nigerian polling agency NOI polls and the Nigerian Health Watch, the trend of Doctors emigrating to other countries is at an all-time high. Statistically, about 2000 doctors were estimated to have left Nigeria in recent times, adding to the previews records. This has widened the Doctor-Patient ratio beyond the globally set target. Data from the World Health organization indicated that Nigeria’s physician to patient ratio is 4 doctors per 10,000 patients, as against, 26 and 28 doctors per 10,000 people in the USA and Canada respectively. This is way beyond the World Health Organization’s recommendation of one doctor per 600 people.
The Nigerian government must put urgent measures in place to help curb this menace. There must be a political will, with a strong resolve that prioritizes the sector and allocate sufficient budgets to help resolve some, if not all of the aforementioned reasons for the mass exodus to help keep the doctors at home to serve their country and people.