Notable medical practitioners in practice and academia, including Dr Titilayo Ogunlana, consultant paediatrician, Lagoon Hospitals, Ikeja; Hon. John Ajibayo Adeyeye, special adviser on health to the Ondo State Governor; Dr Tagbo Azubike, managing director, Lagoon Hospitals, Ikoyi; and Prof. Akin Osigbogun, a member of the United Nations Funds for Population Activities, have advised doctors and medical undergraduates to shun the common practice of leaving the country to seek employment overseas, saying the trend has only continued to worsen the challenges in the country’s health sector.
The medical experts gave the advice at the 2018 Health Week, organised by the Lagos State University Medical Students Association (LASUMA), held at the Lagos State University College of Medicine (LASUCOM) Lecture Theatre, on 22 October 2018.
The Health Week, which was a national event, also featured LASUMA’s 11th Annual Symposium themed, “The Scourge of Brain Drain in Nigerian Health Sector” and sub-themed: “Access to Adequate Healthcare: Barriers and Solutions”.
Speaking during the panel session, which had several students of the college in attendance, Ogunlana noted that rather than individually seeking better working conditions overseas, the medics should collectively be thinking of how to improve the health sector back home, adding that this would not only encourage other doctors to practise locally but would also attract foreign doctors to desire to work in the country.
Citing corruption in the health sector as one of the major reasons why doctors do not want to practise in the country, Ogunlana stated that “corruption is a systemic problem and has to be solved holistically”, stressing that doctors have to contribute their quota to tackling the problem, rather than seeking to escape it.
Dr Adeyinka, who was the second speaker in the panel, observed that it was essential to ascertain the exact root causes the challenge of doctors leaving the country to practise abroad, as this would help in proffering viable solutions for the benefit of all.
He further expressed concern that while government was supposed to provide inspirational leadership, while doctors rendered quality services, the reverse had been the case in Nigeria. “Looking at our infant mortality statistics, we can see how many infants are being lost due to poor services,” he said.
Adeyinka equally bemoaned the statistics that show that the ratio of doctors to patients in Nigeria is one to 6,000 per day. “How then do we expect them to attend to all the patients properly, knowingly full well that at the end of the month, they will get a peanut payment as salary?” he queried.
Dr Osibogun, who was represented by Dr (Mrs) Okafor, spoke on the barriers to accessing primary healthcare and maternity centres for pregnant women and lactating mothers, and why people lose interest in going to healthcare centres for treatments.
She cited reasons people avoid health centres to include: language barrier, limited cash flow, transportation, delay in hospitals, uneasy access to doctors, difficulty in navigating a hospital, stigma and lack of trust.
In his presentation, Dr Azuibike spoke on how privatising the health industry could affect the Nigerian health sector, noting that “inefficiency is one of the major problems of Nigeria health sector and it has to be corrected, in as much as accountability is needed.”
Coming up for the second time, Ogunlana enlightened the participants on identifying their passions and specialties in medicine, which she admitted might not be an easy task.
She however urged the students not to choose a specialty based on present challenges, but rather on personal area of interest, and advance on it gradually.
“Every challenge in the health sector is actually a way for you to pave way for yourself to success and fame,” she said.
The high point of the symposium was the presentation of awards to some outstanding students, speakers, panelists and lecturers.
Speaking with Pharmanews in an exclusive chat after the event, some of the participating students expressed delight with the nature of the programme, saying it was an eye-opening experience that would not only guide them in their career decisions but has also dissuaded them from joining the bandwagon of physicians desperate to leave the country for overseas practice.