On Wednesday, Chris Ngige, minister of labour, said Nigeria has “more than enough” medical doctors to cater for its needs. Ngige, who was speaking during a Channels Television programme, said there is nothing wrong with some of the doctors seeking green pastures elsewhere.
The minister, who himself is a medical doctor, said: “We have more than enough doctors. You can quote me. We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here.”
The minister’s statement has drawn criticisms, but how correct is he?
CLAIM ONE: Nigeria has enough doctors
While presenting a paper at the annual general meeting and scientific conference of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) in 2018, Isaac Adewole, a professor of medicine and minister of health, said as of May 2018, 88,692 doctors were registered in the country.
Adewole cited data from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the professional health regulatory agency for medicine, dentistry and alternative medicine in Nigeria, in his speech. Of that number, he said only 45,000 — representing 50 percent of them — are currently practising in Nigeria. This means with a population of 198 million, according to the National Population Commission (NPC), there is just one doctor for 4,400 Nigerians.
This is definitely far from being enough to take care of Nigeria’s population, especially as the World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests in its 2019 World Health Statistics Overview that countries with “fewer than 10 medical doctors per 10 000 population” have “insufficient” healthcare professionals.
The problem of inadequate doctors is not new. Figures from earlier years also show the number of doctors in the country was never “more than enough”. In 2013, WHO statistics showed that there were just “3.8 doctors for every 10,000 Nigerians”, which translates to one doctor for 2,631 individuals.
IS NIGERIA ALONE?
WHO data showed that Nigeria is among the countries with very poor doctor-to-patient ratio as of 2013 (which is the most recent data from the country) especially when compared to developed countries.
Austria, for instance, has 49.3 doctors for every 10,000 citizens; 39 doctors for same in Argentina; 33.8 in Australia; 34.5 in Azerbaijan; 39.7 in Bulgaria; 45.1 in Georgia; 40 in Germany; 60 in Greece and as much as 73.3 in Croatia.
Israel has 35 doctors for 10,000 patients; Italy, 39; Monaco, 65; the Netherlands, 33; Cote d’Ivoire, 30; and South Africa, 7.4.
CLAIM TWO: Nigeria not experiencing brain drain in medical profession
Ngige also said there is nothing to worry about over the situation which he said does not translate to brain drain. He said Nigeria still gains from the doctors’ migration through foreign exchange earnings.
According to him, “when they (doctors) go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil. Will you call that brain drain? So, I don’t see any loss.”
But how true is this?
In 2018, a research by Africa Check showed that at least 12 doctors leave Nigeria for the UK every week! And the situation is not becoming any better. Here is why: an NOI survey in 2017 found out that nine in 10 Nigerian doctors were seeking opportunity to go and practise abroad – and while 98 percent of the respondents cited high taxes and deductions from salary as challenges that force doctors to consider leaving abroad, 92 percent gave their reasons as low work satisfaction while 91 percent cited poor salaries and emoluments.
Checks by TheCable revealed the major challenge of the country’s health sector has been gross underfunding. The crisis in the health sector has made the rich and powerful to seek medical attention abroad.
VERDICT: Ngige’s claim that Nigeria has enough medical doctors is false. Available statistics also show the country is experiencing grievous brain drain in the medical profession and has every cause to worry over the situation.