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Sunday, 17 September 2023 05:32

Nigerian Doctors Seek Opportunities Abroad Amidst Healthcare Workforce Challenges

Brain Drain Impacts Nigerian Hospitals as Medical Professionals Relocate


As Nigeria grapples with healthcare workforce challenges related to universal health coverage, a Sunday PUNCH investigation has uncovered that 281 Nigerian doctors are currently practicing in various African countries. This exodus of medical professionals is taking a toll on Nigeria’s healthcare system as hospitals struggle to retain skilled medical workers.

Data obtained from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) reveals that Nigerian doctors are actively seeking opportunities in other African nations despite recent warnings from the World Health Organisation (WHO) about Nigeria and 54 other countries facing critical healthcare workforce challenges.

Professor Emem Bassey, the Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors of Federal Tertiary Hospitals, raised concerns about the increasing poaching of Nigerian medical doctors by African countries such as Sierra Leone and Gambia. These countries are reportedly offering attractive incentives of up to $3,000 to $4,000 to lure Nigerian medical professionals.

The MDCN data shows that the highest number of Nigerian doctors practicing abroad is in Sudan (153 doctors), followed by South Africa (41 doctors), Egypt (17 doctors), Ghana (17 doctors), Uganda (13 doctors), and Gambia (7 doctors). Several other African countries also have Nigerian doctors in their healthcare systems, further depleting Nigeria’s healthcare workforce.

According to the General Medical Council of the United Kingdom, the number of Nigerian-trained doctors practicing in the UK has surged to 11,872. Nigeria ranks third in the list of foreign countries contributing medical professionals to the UK, after India and Pakistan.

Professor Muhammad Muhammad, President of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, explained that Nigerian doctors practicing abroad often receive higher remuneration and better working conditions than their counterparts in Nigeria. He emphasized that the government needs to take measures to address the root causes of this brain drain, including improving the welfare, working conditions, and security of healthcare workers.

Dr. Emeka Orji, President of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, expressed his dismay at the brain drain, highlighting the irony that Nigerian doctors are leaving for African countries offering superior working environments, incentives, and remuneration.

Dr. Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State Chapter, echoed the call for the government to address the brain drain issue by increasing the welfare of doctors, enhancing remuneration, and providing special allowances to doctors practicing in rural communities.

Earlier this year, the WHO identified Nigeria and 54 other countries as facing significant healthcare workforce challenges, including a shortage of doctors, nurses, and midwives. These countries were placed on a red list, discouraging active recruitment of healthcare professionals from these nations.

Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Directors, Prof. Emem Bassey, emphasized the difficulty of replacing healthcare workers who leave Nigeria, citing the complex process of recruitment approvals and the urgency of addressing critical staff shortages in the healthcare sector.

The ongoing exodus of medical professionals from Nigeria raises concerns about the nation’s ability to meet its healthcare needs and underscores the need for comprehensive measures to retain and support its healthcare workforce.

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