By Aliyu Dangida
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Kano State Chapter, said only 1,300 medical doctors have a record of active service in the state.
Kano is the most populous state in northern Nigeria, with an estimated population of over 15 million people, according to the National Population Commission.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends one doctor for every 600 patients.
The ratio in Kano, according to the number of doctors the NMA says are active in the state, is roughly one to 11,500 patients.
The NMA’s chairman in the state, Abdullahi Suleiman, disclosed this on Monday while speaking at a press conference to mark the 2023 Physicians’ Week in Kano at the NMA House in the state.
Mr. Suleiman said medical doctors and other healthcare workers are exiting the state in droves.
He advised the federal government, state, and other relevant authorities to address the worsening brain drain among healthcare workers.
“The situation is scary; the dearth of doctors is like a patient bleeding profusely, meaning that Nigeria is bleeding healthcare personnel; the blood is leaving the body of Nigeria, and when the blood leaves the body, you know what happens (then the patient will die).
“Our records show that we have only 1,300 doctors for a population of over 20 million people. It’s very bad, and this is across almost all healthcare workers, not just doctors. People are leaving for Gambia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Saudi Arabia every day.
“This is very scary; the government of the day must take deliberate steps to maintain people (doctors and other healthcare workers) in the system; we have to retain our workforce because a healthy nation is a wealthy nation,” Mr. Suleiman said.
He said this year’s celebration of Physicians’ Week was themed “This is Our Chance to Get It Right in the Health Sector,” with subthemes “The Abuja Declaration: 22 Years Later and Ethical Issues in Human Donation” to further enrich discussion of the challenges being faced in the health sector.
“The themes resonate deeply with the current state of healthcare in Nigeria. It underscores the urgency of addressing the challenges we (medical professionals) face, including inadequate infrastructure, limited access to quality healthcare, insufficient funding, poor enumeration, and a shortage of medical professionals.
“This shortage is mainly brought about by the increasing number of doctors and other healthcare workers leaving the country, with those left behind bearing the brunt in the form of overwork, exhaustion, and burnout in a nonconductive working environment,” Mr. Suleiman said.
Abuja declaration and budget release
Mr. Suleiman said the Abuja Declaration was not just about urging state governments to commit at least 15 percent of their annual budgetary allocation to the health sector but to also ensure timely releases of funds into the system.
“The healthcare sector is the bedrock of any nation; now is the time to bring about the necessary reforms, improvements, and collective efforts to achieve robust and efficient healthcare that caters to the needs of all Nigerians.
“We call on the Kano state to employ the needed healthcare workers and provide them with the conditions of service and environment to function effectively to keep them in the system.
“The Abuja Declaration is a crucial commitment that obliges African governments, including Nigeria, to allocate 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector. This funding will help us move towards the achievement of universal health coverage for all.
“Over two decades have passed since this commitment was made, and Nigerian authorities must reflect on their progress in meeting this commitment.
“We are gladdened by the progress being made in Kano State and encourage the government to not only budget the 15 percent but to ensure the release and utilisation of the funds, the NMA chairman in Kano said.”
Last year, according to the Nigerian Medical Association, there were 5,210 associate specialists, 2,318 doctors in training, 1,837 general practitioners, and 1,273 specialists among the 10,387 doctors who relocated to the UK in recent times.
Apart from doctors, other categories of health workers are said to have migrated. Nigeria currently has the third-highest number of foreign doctors working in the UK, after India and Pakistan.
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 (NOIPolls) in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch revealed that about 88 percent of medical doctors in Nigeria were seeking work opportunities abroad at the time.
The consequences of the continuous exodus include a shortage of healthcare workers when compared to the nation’s needs and poor ratios of healthcare workers to Nigerian patients.
As of 2022, Nigeria reportedly had a doctor-patient ratio of 1:10,000, in sharp contrast to the WHO’s minimum recommended ratio of 1:400–600.