WHO says there are 370 medical doctors in every 10,000 Nigerians

The number is already low, yet, the Doctors are leaving.

Nigeria produces a low number of Medical Doctors, who are in turn leaving. (CNN)

However, even the low number is getting lower - Nigeria has a terrible rate of unemployment and terrible working conditions for employed people.

For now though, the outrage is about to get even bigger with the World Health Organization study on Medical Doctors in each country,by every 1,000 people. The study, as published by an index-based Twitter page, Spectator’s Index revealed that Nigeria produces 0.37 Medical Doctors in every 1,000 people.

For nuance, it means Nigeria produces 370 Medical Doctors in every 10,000 Nigerians. That also tallies with the 5,000 or thereabouts Lawyers we churn out of the Nigerian Law School every year. The problem though is not with the rate we churn out, but the availability of good jobs, that can satisfy Nigerian Medical Doctors.

Another problem is that, by Nigerian standards, these Doctors are paid during their housemanship well, and they struggle to find jobs that can match their bills once they get into real practice.

An April 2018 article by the Premium Times notes that an official of Medical Doctors Council of Nigeria told them that Nigeria has about 80,000 registered Medical Doctors.

What Doctors earn in Nigeria?

Medical Practice is one of the most profitable fields in the world. In fact, Nurses are regarded as some of the highest paid people in the US.

In Nigeria, and by Nigerian standards, Medical Practice is profitable for Doctors during housemanship and does well for them during NYSC. The problem is when they get into the real world, where they struggle to find good jobs and nobody is obliged to take them on. The then compete in tough labour market, and earn terrible money.

Some Nigerians maintain that Doctors get paid well because the Nigerian standards favours Doctors.

A January 2019 article by Nigerian Price, says housemanship – the compulsory one-year post Medical School practice – pays Medical Doctors between N140,000-N200,000.

The same story also pegged the allowance paid to Medical Doctors during their NYSC to be between N50,000-N150,000 depending on the hospital. After NYSC, Nigerian Price says private hospitals pay between N120,000-N250,000; government hospitals between N190,000-N280,000, while consultants earn between N600,000-N900000.

The problem though is that not all Medical Doctors will get government jobs and not all of them will get the juicy consultancies or the private jobs. The competition is rife and the good jobs are scarce - that means a lot of Medical Doctors won’t get the juicy jobs - despite their low rate by WHO standards - and will be caught napping, as the economy is not ripe for Nigerians to afford good healthcare, which means good hospitals than can pay good money are in short supply.

Investors are also pretty scared to invest in hospitals.

Some of the better private hospitals are simply cash-strapped as they struggle to even manage six top Medical Doctors.

Explaining why he left Nigeria for the UK, Dr. Ayokunle Michael told Premium Times that, “I left the country almost six years. Before I left, I was struggling to get a good job in spite spending almost nine years in school without failing. I left when it was becoming frustrating and the opportunity presented itself. Some colleagues took the opportunity, while some decided to stay back. Some of those who stayed back are also leaving, the situation is getting worse.”

Thus, a lot of Medical Doctors are either travelling out or running into development work

Last year, while I worked for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), I realized that a lot of young Nigerian Medical Doctors would rather be with the USAID and other development endeavours than stay in standard medical practice which pays less and simply demands too much – that is even if you get a good gig, which is scarce.

Even worse, a lot of Nigerians are now leaving the country for greener pastures, where there is a reported demand for Nigerian Medical Practitioners who have a ‘hustler’s mentality,’ from the crazy demands of our country and our crooked, draining educational system.

On April 3, 2018, Premium Times reported the “brain drain” in the Nigerian medical sector as Doctors now travel out of the country on a daily basis due to unemployment, underemployment or terrible working conditions that does not equate their expertise. The major destination was reported as U.S, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and the UK.

The UK, for example are said to be opening its borders to medical practitioners from other Commonwealth countries and the Premium Times articles records an interviewee that noted that things are about to get worse.

The rate of Nigeria Medical Doctors abroad

While there is no verifiable data to know the exact number, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) President, Mike Ogirima, told Premium Times that about “10,000 to 15,000 Nigerian doctors are working outside the country and 90 per cent of them were trained in Nigeria.”

Ogirima attributed the problem as, “due to the unconducive working environment in the hospitals."

He also told Premium Times that, ”We need the government to improve the working environment, provide necessary tool for doctors and improve their welfare package.” he said.

In 2017, NMA official, Olumuyiwa Odusote said 40,000 out of the 75,000 registered Nigerian medical doctors are practicing outside the country.

Odusote said 100 doctors resigned from the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan in 2017, while in the last two years preceding that, ”800 doctors resigned from hospitals owned by the Lagos State Government.”

He also said that in 2012, more than 1,000 doctors wrote the West Africa College of Physicians exams to gain admission into Nigerian teaching hospitals, ”but in 2017 only 236 doctors sat for the same exam.”

As of July 2017, General Medical Council (GMC), UK, also shows that over 4,765 Nigerian doctors are working in the UK - 1.7 per cent of the total of the UK’s medical workforce.

At this time, the representation of Medical Doctors is staggeringly low, with the rate now reported to be around one Doctor for every 3,500 patients, in a country with terribly low poverty rates and increasingly health concerns – the WHO recommends one Doctor for every 600 patients.

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