The Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State chapter, has revealed that 507 medical doctors practicing in the state have migrated to the United Kingdom in less than 24 months due to better conditions of service.
The association’s Chairman, Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, disclosed this during an exclusive interview , calling on the Federal and state governments to address the problem of brain drain in the health sector.
Olowojebutu stated that brain drain had become a big problem in Nigeria, warning that medicine might go into extinction in the country if the problem persisted and not treated as an emergency.
According to him, there is a lot of dearth of doctors in Nigeria, especially in Lagos State.
The NMA chairman said, “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. Last month alone, we had over 100 doctors who left Nigeria for the UK and about 80 of them were from Lagos State.
“During the 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 alone to the UK.
The physician said there was a need for an emergency assessment and emergency meeting to curtail the problem.
He noted, “The nation must address brain drain as an emergency. Who is addressing it? It’s only the doctors that have been talking about it. Which government has come out to talk about it?
“So, for us in Lagos State, it is important as a nation that we address this push and pull syndrome. What are we doing as a nation? There has to be an emergency to sort it out.
“We have to be deliberate about it because if we don’t, medicine will go into extinction.
“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.”
Olowojebutu lamented that the quality of healthcare delivery in the country had reduced because the manpower was reduced.
“There is a lot of 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.
“So, it is important as a nation that we address this thing wholesomely, the welfare of doctors and their salaries.
“We hope that the government will sit down and look at this as an emergency and solve the problem,” he said.
He also urged the government to stop being quiet about the problem, stressing that it was time the government arose and did the needful.
According to the British General Medical Council, the total number of Nigerian-trained doctors in the UK now stands at 10,387.
Apart from doctors, other categories of health workers are also migrating.
The Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors says six out of 10 doctors in the country plan to leave the country for greener pastures.
The mass exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses has been a burning issue in the country.
A 2017 survey by the Nigerian Polling Organisation in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch revealed that about 88 per cent of medical doctors in Nigeria were seeking work opportunities abroad.