The National President of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, Dr Innocent Orji has revealed that Nigeria has lost about 2800 resident doctors over a period of two years.
He said that the number does not include consultants and other doctors.
Speaking in a press conference at the end of a three-day National Executive Council (NEC) meeting in Uyo on Saturday with the theme: “Improved Welfare of Healthcare Workers: A Panacea for Brain Drain (Political and Doctors’ Perspectives)”, the President disclosed that from a study the organisation conducted in September 2022, a total of 800 resident doctors travelled out of the country from January to August.
He said the implication was that 100 resident doctors leave Nigeria every month.
Orji noted that the exodus of doctors to foreign countries had continued to weigh down the healthcare delivery and service in Nigeria as one doctor is expected to take care of over 10,000 patients without a commensurate welfare package.
The President decried the poor condition of service and welfare of health workers in Nigeria and called for adequate remuneration, as well as infrastructural development in the hospitals across the country to tackle the rate of brain drain.
He also called for 15% annual budgetary allocation to the healthcare sector in line with the 2001 Abuja declaration for healthcare financing in Africa and global best practices.
While calling for a review of the bureaucratic bottlenecks in the employment process of doctors for easy employment, the President urged the federal government to ensure that the reasons doctors are leaving the country are addressed.
According to him, “We did a study in September last year and we came up with facts that in a two year period, we lost 2000 resident doctors. From January to August of 2022, we lost 800 doctors that is to say we lose 100 doctors every month. I always say, as politicians are playing politics they should also pay attention to governance because it will come to a time when they will finish elections in February and March, and come back to find out that there are no doctors again.
“Even though we have a massive shortage of doctors, the truth is that we still have doctors in the street looking for employment but bureaucracy in the system is a major problem. We know that bureaucracy in government is to follow due process and so on but there should be a point to review whatever that is on ground to see whether it is working or not, there must be a mechanism for replacing clinical staff, who are leaving the hospital.
“Even if you do that, it is not going to solve the problem but will help to reduce it because people who are leaving are highly skilled doctors, even if you employ new people, before they would attain to that level of competence and training, it will take time, so the best thing is to address the reason doctors are emigrating.
“The reason doctors are leaving is not only for remuneration, they need housing schemes, car loan schemes and other things that even the government does not necessarily need to spend its money on, what it needs to do is just to midwife the process and get in private investors who would fund that.
“Another reason doctors are leaving is because of poor infrastructure. It is very disheartening that as a doctor, you know what to do to save the life of your patient and you end up losing the patient because of lack of infrastructure. If it happens overtime, you run into depression, this is not a joke, and the next thing you have to do is to move away and go to a better system. If the government wants to address this, there is no shortcut to it, it can address it.”
Orji also said that NEC at their resolution urged the National Assembly to make laws protecting healthcare workers, adding that the Chief Medical Directors of tertiary hospitals should take responsibility for security in their various hospitals as NARD would no longer continue to watch her members being assaulted by staff, patients relatives or security operatives.
He added that NEC called on the federal government, the Nigerian Governors’ Forum and all stakeholders to prevail on the governors of Abia, Ondo and Ekiti to urgently pay arrears of salaries and allowances owed its members, which according to him that of Abia State has reached 25 months arrears.