Brain Drain: Over 5000 Nigerian Doctors in US, UK

July 11th, 2012

More than 5000 Nigerians practise medicine abroad, Health Minister Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu has said.

This, he said, calls for concern because the ‘’figure is huge.”

Speaking at the flag off of the plenary session of the Medical and dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) in Abuja, he said some of the doctors are working in American specialist hospitals.

Others are practising in the United Kingdom and some African countries.

To enhance the healthcare system, two Nigerian doctors based in the United States are contemplating introducing the advanced technology platform tagged FTTH(Fibre to the home, also called fibre to the premises service), to the advantage of its clients.

Dr Debo Adeleke and Dr Babafemi Adenuga, who manage Med Concierge, said it is not always a tea party when patients come over to the US and attempt to access the healthcare delivery.

“For the system here is highly organised. We are out to ensure that the consumers, especially from Nigeria, have hassle-free treatment. Experiences have shown that patients from Nigeria spend invaluable time trying to book appointment. But with this organisation, they don’t have to wait weeks, not even a minute longer, to see a specialist to discuss their condition, treatment and potential alternatives.

“In essence, we eliminate unnecessary delay, midnight trips to the emergency room or physician waiting rooms for patients awaiting treatment. We provide on-demand feedback on pains, medication reactions and environmental conditions; facilitate consultation on individual vital sign trends and results,” said Adeleke.

Adeleke said: “These days, you can’t watch the news or read articles without hearing about the rising cost of health care, the challenges of caring for an aging population, and the need for better exercise and nutrition to prevent chronic diseases. As the financial and decision making responsibility for managing health increasingly falls on consumers, and as timely access to doctors and specialists becomes more difficult, products and services that offer personalised care is of necessity.

“We provide customised care as our physicians will personalise the tests and evaluation for each individual based on age, current health, family history, lifestyle and personal preference. Through our services, our clients will enjoy the full benefits of receiving the best quality healthcare with the least amount of stress. We are able to help them seamlessly navigate through the complex maze of the US healthcare system. We also manage all medical billing, account reconciliation and complete all client accounts while they are in the US, and even after they have gone back to their home countries.

“We also ensure that their accounts are brought to a zero balance to forestall any future accounting discrepancies. An added benefit is that, we are also able to provide services such as reliable transportation and accommodation for our clients.”

On why more Nigerians prefer to access foreign medical care, Dr Adenuga, who is Chairman, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Howard University, Washington D.C, said: “Problems with accessibility to care would include evaluation of the adequacy of the numbers of healthcare facilities and the proper distribution of these facilities to allow easy and immediate access to a medical facility for every patient who needs one, the affordability, and therefore the accessibility of quality healthcare to all patients must be priotised.’’

Adenuga said: “The health system is collapsing due to sundry reasons and that is why more Nigerians are seeking foreign medical attention.

“Water, electricity, good roads, etc are basic social services that improve the standards of living of the people. Provision of these would improve the state of health of the people. A universal health care insurance should also be put in place. The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) is simply not working, just like any other government project in the country.

“Attitude is another factor. In Nigeria, the death of a person is as trivial as weekend news. No one really cares. The government will not be moved to build better roads because of car accidents, or better equip hospitals because of increased mortality. They do not care. Since Nigerians have a high fertility rate, we can always replace the lost ones.”

He added: “Staffing is a major issue that must be addressed. The exodus of doctors in Nigeria is alarming. The solution shouldn’t be geared towards increasing doctors’basic salaries alone, but rather to increase benefits such as hazards allowance, loans etc, and more importantly, improve the tools doctors work with.

“It is not that doctors in the US, UK or India are better than doctors in Nigeria, but they have better tools to work with, that is, much better laboratories, diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. I think it is even more difficult to get into medical school in Nigeria than in the US. Quackery/accreditation must be addressed as well. It is hard to tell which private clinic is manned by a doctor, registered nurse, auxiliary nurse, or even mechanic, especially in Lagos. Stricter controls should be placed on private clinics.”