The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, has said the migration of doctors to foreign countries is not peculiar to Nigeria.
Ehanire noted that the Federal Government was only concerned with the experienced medical personnel who left the country, saying the FG was working on how to make them still offer virtual service to Nigeria.
The minister disclosed this when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria ministerial forum in Abuja.
The minister says Federal Government is working towards improving the condition of service of Nigerian doctors to check the migration of the medical personnel.
He said, “At a very senior level of those who have had postgraduate training, we are doing everything we can to improve the conditions of service.
“The health reform committee set up by the President is working and looking at that; we have been talking with the Ministry of Labour on how to do that.
“We are also talking about engaging those who have spent many years abroad; who are specialists who are highly specialised, and who know a lot of high tech medicine, to engage them to work with us even if it is virtually so they can do virtual consultations.
“They can come here every three months or six for a few weeks and do some work hands-on so that we can gain something from their experience and knowledge.
“This is so that we can harvest the knowledge and skills that they developed after working for many years in highly developed countries.”
Ehanire, who described the issue of migration of health workers especially doctors and nurses as a global phenomenon and not peculiar to Nigeria, added that people in those professions were becoming a very mobile professional group.
He said, “I have spoken with health authorities in the United Kingdom, and they have told me that their doctors are also leaving for Canada, New Zealand and other countries where the pay is better.
“So, the movement of doctors is not peculiar to Nigeria, Ghana has the same experience. I spoke to the Minister of Health of Egypt; they have the same experience in mobility of doctors and even in Europe, European doctors move to where the salaries are better.
“As far as we are concerned, it is the very experienced ones who leave we have issues with.”
Ehanire explained that Nigeria produces about 3000 doctors every year and the number that is leaving is just about 1000, “so, there is indeed a surplus of doctors.”
He added that many doctors were still in search of where they could do their internship or to serve their residency, saying that “once they undergo some training, the younger ones could easily be replaced quickly.”
According to the minister, the Federal Government is also working on civil service rules to make the replacement prompt so that once a doctor leaves, he or she can be replaced within a week.
“The apparent gaps we see are because rules have to be obeyed and this makes it difficult for those who exit the public hospitals to be immediately replaced.
“So, once that is possible, it will be done, but at a very senior level of those who have post-graduate training, we are doing everything we can to improve the condition of service,” he added.
NAN reports that the migration of doctors and other health personnel from Nigeria to other countries of the world has increased astronomically, and the story is that there are better working conditions and remuneration abroad.
Following such reports, many stakeholders in the health sector including the Nigerian Medical Association and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors have lent their voices to the issue of brain drain.
They said that unless drastic measures were deployed by governments to stem the tide of brain drain, national health indices may spiral out of control, leaving Nigeria in the bottom rank among the comity of nations.