Experts in Nigeria’s health sector have said it would take Nigeria 20 years, at the minimum, to produce 400,000 health workers needed to fill in the gap and cater to the health needs of Nigeria’s 220 million population.
The senior medical professionals, stated this while while speaking with Punch, noting that Nigeria has a horrible ratio of one doctor to 8,000 patients, which is against the World Health Organisation recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients.
The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Ali Pate, has previously disclosed that the country still needs about 400,000 health workers to cater to the healthcare needs of Nigerians effectively.
Professor Mike Ogirima, a past President of the Nigerian Medical Association, said the massive migration of Nigerian health workers to foreign countries, mostly in search of greener pastures, has taken its toll on the few doctors left in the system.
He described the doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria as horrible.
Ogirima, who is also the Provost, College of Health Sciences, Federal University Lokoja, Kogi State, said for now, the country only produces an average of 3000 doctors annually, lamenting that Nigeria is faced with a huge doctors deficit.
“If we are producing 3000 annually, the gap for doctors is about 280,000. So we need about 10 years to catch up at the rate with which we are producing doctors. If we now add other health workers, we need to double that rate.
“The gap of doctors we need in this country with our population is up to 300,000 now. We need about 10 years to catch up and we can’t wait for 10 years to catch up.
“Currently, Nigeria has a doctor-to-population ratio of one doctor to 8,000 population, instead of one doctor to 600 people as recommended by the WHO. That is why when you go to the hospital, the doctors you meet there are tired.”
The Professor of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery said the shortage of medical personnel in Nigerian public hospitals didn’t suddenly happen.
“We currently have about 45,000 doctors practising in Nigeria. Many of them have left the country. If it takes 10 years to get that number of doctors, it will take another 10 years to produce other health workers.
“So, it will take us nothing less than 15 to 20 years to produce 400,000 health workers. If we are deficient and we need 10 years to catch up, know the world will not wait for you and the population is not waiting for you.”
Ogrima, therefore, urged the government to invest in health workers’ training and address the challenges of insecurity, stating that it would be difficult for Nigeria to retain its health workers when the equipment and motivation are not there.
Also, the Chief Medical Director of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Professor Adetokunbo Fabamwo, on his part, said the federal government should try its best to retain the remaining medical doctors in the country.
“What I know is that there is a huge leakage in developing world countries. So health workers are moving en masse from Nigeria to the UK, Canada and the US. I do not know the strategy of the FG to produce 400,000 health workers.
“But I know where to start is to at least keep the ones that we have. The reality on the ground now is that as we are producing, they are leaving. It is like putting water in a basket. If we can block the migration, then we can now start projecting.”
A past President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, Olumide Akintayo, told our correspondent that it would be difficult for Nigeria to produce N400,000 health workers due to lack of human resources.
“We cannot produce these numbers in the universities. Who are the people going to train this number,” he asked.
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