Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said there is nothing wrong with doctors leaving Nigeria as the country has “more than enough” medical personnel.
Speaking during a Channels TV programme on Wednesday, the minister defended the doctors searching for green pastures elsewhere, saying “if you have surplus, you export.”
Ngige’s comment comes weeks after Saudi officials stormed Nigeria to recruit medical doctors, an opportunity that was highly sought for.
One of the programme anchors had asked him if he was worried about the rate doctors leave Nigeria to which he responded: “No, I am not worried (about doctors leaving the country). We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export.
“It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.
“There are surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. In my area, we have excess.
“Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out.”
Ngige, who himself is a doctor, added that the medical personnel relocating from Nigeria also contribute to the country’s foreign exchange earnings, and that some of them do set up medical centres back home.
He said: “When they 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? I know a couple of them who practise abroad but set up medical centres back home.
“They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss.”
Statistics from the World Health Organisation (WHO) showed that as at 2013, there were 3.8 doctors for every 10,000 Nigerians, far below the organisations’s recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients.
Recent data from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) also showed that as of December 2017, Nigeria had 39,912 registered medical doctors. This means with a population of 193 million in 2016, there was just one medical doctor for every 4,845 Nigerians.
Thereafter, the NMA president, Dr. Adedayo Faduyile, said Nigeria had no enough doctors, stressing the need to ensure the country retains its medical personnel.
He said, “That is an unfortunate statement which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice.
“The WHO stated that, for optimal healthcare to be achieved, we need doctor/patient ratio of one to 600.
“In Nigeria, we have 40, 000 doctors taking care of 200 million people. It’s unfortunate, we do not have enough doctors. Maybe he is looking at the monetary part, but, there is opportunity cost.
“We have the maternal mortality that is about the highest in the world. To correct it, we need health professionals around.”
On his part, President of the National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Olusegun Olaopa, said Ngige spoke as a politician.
“He spoke as a politician who does not know what is happening in the country.
“The doctors we are losing are not fresh doctors but specialists.
“That means that Nigeria will continue to battle with shortage of specialist doctors,” he said.