Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
A large number of doctors are set to exit Nigeria once the ban on international flights is lifted this week, The PUNCH has learnt.
This is just as The PUNCH observed from data provided by the United Kingdom’s Medical Council that the number of Nigerian doctors migrating to the UK increased by almost 100 between July and August despite the restriction on international flights.
Recall that the Nigeria Immigration Service had in July prevented 58 Nigerian doctors from migrating to the UK because they didn’t have visas.
It was, however, learnt that following the re-opening of the British High Commission a month ago, many of these doctors had obtained visas and had left even though the restriction on international flights had not been lifted.
International flights will resume in the country on Saturday.
The UK recently introduced a ‘Health and Care Visa’ policy, which aims to make it cheaper, quicker and easier for healthcare professionals to migrate to the UK.
“I cannot say for sure how many of us have left but I am currently in the UK and many of us who were turned back that day have also departed Nigeria,” one of the 58 doctors told The PUNCH.
The 58 Nigerian doctors, who were prevented by immigration from travelling to the UK were expected to earn between £51,384 (N25.1m) and £98,112 (N47.9m) per year depending on the experience they have, according to NES Health Care, a UK-based firm that helps over 150 private hospitals to recruit doctors from all over the world.
Other destinations of choice include Canada, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Australia and the United States which recently approved
Speaking with our correspondent, the First Vice-President, National Association of Resident Doctors, Dr. Julian Ojebo, said 4,000 doctors might leave Nigeria between August and December.
He said the poor treatment of doctors and the hostile working environment had made migration almost inevitable.
Ojebo said, “One of the anaesthetists involved in transplant in Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital has relocated to Saudi Arabia. One of the best brains in Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital has been offered a job for $10,000 in Saudi Arabia. He is leaving immediately after the lockdown.
“A lot of resident doctors are leaving. They have all got jobs in Saudi. The only thing stopping them is the COVID-19 and the flight ban… We are going to have over 4,000 doctors leaving between now and December.
“Out of the 33,000 registered doctors in Nigeria, the ones we have practising in Nigeria are less than 20,000. Over 13,000 are all around the world. Our problem is not education because when we go to saner climes we adapt so well and even do better than those who were trained abroad.”
Ojebo said the condition in Nigeria had deteriorated to the extent that doctors had begun migrating to even poorer countries because they pay physicians better and invest more in their health sector.
“Let me shock you Nigerian doctors go to Namibia, The Gambia and even Somalia. I have a classmate who is currently working in Somalia,” he said.
He said there was a need for the government to invest in the health sector.
Ojebo said a lot of the medical facilities being set up to tackle COVID-19 were makeshift.
He added, “Nigeria post-COVID does not know how to manage any other infectious disease should it come again. All we have are tents in Lagos and Abuja. Why are we not saying we want to build an infectious disease hospital in each geopolitical zone in case of a pandemic or epidemic in the future?
“Why can’t we build hospitals that will do transplants in every geopolitical zone? Aminu Kano does transplants especially liver and kidney. Why can’t they fund it? LASUTH does a lot of cardiac procedures. Why are they not putting money in LASUTH?”
The Deputy Director, Human Resources at the Federal Ministry of Health, Shakuri Kadiri, had revealed at the launch of the Nigeria Health Workforce Country profile in March that the Nigerian health sector recorded an increase in the number of doctors seeking migration from 656 in 2014 to 1551 in 2018. ,,