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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Doctors’ Exodus to Saudi Arabia

OVER the years, many well trained and accomplished professionals including medical doctors have migrated from Nigeria to other countries especially Europe and America. This trend which started in the mid-1990s continues unabated with some of the best brains in Nigeria relocating to work in those countries. However, the ongoing recruitment of doctors from Nigeria for export to Saudi Arabia in the midst of escalating third wave of Covid-19 pandemic and on-going strike by National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD) is worrisome. To make matters worse, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has lent support to the struggle of NARD by issuing a strike notice to the Federal Government of Nigeria to join the strike.
INDEED, migration is a global phenomenon that allows people to move from one country to the other in search of better opportunities and more favourable working environment. However, when and where the migration is unidirectional as the present migration of Medical Doctors to Saudi Arabia and in a situation of gross shortages, the phenomenon becomes even more disturbing and worrisome.
THIS is why the current open recruitment of doctors especially the well trained and seasoned Consultants experienced Medical Doctors become wholly unacceptable and condemnable to all patriotic Nigerians. This is more worrisome when the country is witnessing gross shortage in the number of available doctors in the country.
THE Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria puts the total number of registered doctors in Nigeria at 74, 543 for a population of over 200 million people. This puts doctor-patient ratio at 1:3,500. This falls far below the World Health Organisation, WHO recommendation of 1:600. In addition, available records indicated that in 2018, out of about 74,543, registered doctors in the country, over 38,00 have migrated to other countries to work.
AT present Nigeria has an estimated 40, 000 registered doctors practicing in the country while Saudi Arabia in 2019 has approximately 113,00 doctors for a population of about 35 million. The latest is that Saudi Arabia in spite of its great advantage over Nigeria is mass recruiting Nigerian doctors to boost her healthcare system
This is not only embarrassing but shameful for a country of Nigeria’s status.
THE present unwholesome and embarrassing phenomenon which started a long time ago was caused by a number of factors. Prominent among the reasons adduced for the development is poor remuneration and poor working conditions including lack of necessary basic tools and equipment for doctors to discharge their onerous functions.
OTHERS include poor management of medical system in the country. Indeed, the uncontrolled and unmitigated migration of medical doctors over the years and especially the present unabashedly open recruitment by agents of Saudi Arabia that have recognized the quality and versatility of Nigerian doctors have damaging consequences. In the first instance, the current exercise will not only aggravate the gross shortage of doctors currently in Nigeria but more importantly will leave many hospitals especially in rural areas without any doctors.
MORE worrisome will be the inability to train more competent and qualified doctors for the teeming Nigerian populace because the consultants that would train them would all have relocated to develop other countries. This point was buttressed by a lady medical graduate of 2011 that was interviewed along with the Professor that taught her in the Medical College. In addition, more Nigerians will not have access to medical treatment and will be left to die from sickness that can be cured or managed by medical experts. Also, medical research and development in the country would suffer because there would be no competent hands to conduct medical research.
THE above development is a manifestation and demonstration of the unfavourable policies of the present administration to the workforce in the country. Therefore, there is a need to reverse this ugly trend to improve qualitative health care delivery in Nigeria. The need to improve the welfare and working environment of doctors in the country becomes indispensable. A situation where there is a wide gulf between their counterparts in other societies cannot be expected to ensure industrial harmony and sustainable health provision in Nigeria.
IN this context, the government must live up to its responsibility and take care of the health care system. The funding of the health system must be improved upon. The need to improve doctors’ remuneration to be at par with their counterparts in other climes must be pursued with vigor and the sincerity.
THE doctors on their own part must show understanding of the peculiar situation of Nigeria and be committed in assisting to revamp the dwindling fortunes of the health sector in the country. They should join others in fashioning ways and means of improving the health care system in the country.
AFTERALL, if the citizens of Saudi Arabia did not stay back in their country, doctors from Nigeria will have nowhere to run to and enjoy the benefits of others’ efforts. The time to show cooperation and understanding by both government and the doctors to resolve the lingering crisis is now and both must be committed to achieving lasting and enduring peace and harmony in the nation’s health sector.

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