The estimated 40,000 doctors treating the 200 million population in Nigeria has been thoroughly depleted, according to the president of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Prof Innocent Ujah.
He said this is because doctors are leaving the country in droves daily.
He said by the WHO standard, one doctor should treat 600 people, but in Nigeria one doctor treats about 4,000 people and that still depends on one’s location.
In some states such as Kano, the state government spends millions of naira to train medical doctors and most of them, it was gathered, only work in the state for the number of years indicated by the bonds they sign with the state government after which they seek greener pastures.
For instance, Dr. Fatima Damagun, a family physician in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), said more than 20 doctors, most of them senior ones have left her hospital (for hospitals outside the country) in the last three years, with as many more planning to exit the country as soon as possible.
Of the many senior doctors that have left recently, she said it was more painful to see one of the two professors of neurology in the hospital depart the country for greener pastures.
Saudi Arabia, for instance, is massively recruiting and they are the easiest path for doctors, especially for those from the Northern part of the country while those from the Southern part favour the United States, she said.
Going to the United States is, however, more expensive, she said, putting into consideration that each of the exams to be taken cost about $1,500 to $1,700
From her interaction with most of her colleagues that have left, two issues stand out among their reasons for leaving: poor job satisfaction and financial constraints.
She said the professor of neurology that left her hospital and the country left his family in a rented apartment because of all his years of working in Nigeria, he was not able to build a house of his own due to poor remuneration.
“It was when he left for Saudi a few years ago that he was able to buy a house and refurbished it to his taste”, she said.
She said it is embarrassing for them to always have to refer patients to other hospitals because major equipment needed to deliver optimal healthcare are either not functioning or not available.
An official in the Kano health ministry said the state does not have a problem with the doctors as none of them have ever defaulted on the bonds.