The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has raised the alarm that Nigeria may have to important medical doctors to treat local patients in the future, if urgent steps are not taken to fix the skyrocketing waves of brain drain that may lead to total collapse of the healthcare system in the country.

The body also called for a state of emergency in the healthcare sector with a view to holistically addressing the menace of pull and push factors, encouraging mas migration of health personnel to Europe, America, Eastern world, and other African countries.

The NMA chairman in Oyo State, Dr. Ayotunde Fasunla, raised the alarm at the official opening of the 2022 scientific conference, entitled: ‘National Health Authority Act – The Sound Bites’, with sub-theme: ‘Industrial

Harmony in the Health Sector – A Necessity for Health Sector Growth’, held at the Ibadan Business School, Old Bodija, Ibadan on Tuesday.

He gave the warning in the presence of Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Olabode Ladipo, who represented Oyo State governor, Seyi Makinde; the Chief Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Budo-Egba, Kwara State, Dr. Baba Issa, who represented the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe; the Pioneer Chief Medical Director, University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Emeritus Prof Oluwole Akande; and President, Ibadan College of Medicine Alumni Association (ICOMAA) Worldwide, Prof Oladipo Otolorin.

The Chairman, Medical Advisory Council, UCH, Dr. Abiodun Adeoye, who stood in for the hospital’s Chief Medical Director, Prof Abiodun Otegbayo, as well as representatives of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria, were also in attendance. They all concurred that the brain drain in the health sector should be treated as a national emergency.

Fasunla stated further that the poor state of the government owned hospitals in the country is largely due to poor financing. He noted that the budgetary allocation to health sector in 2022 was approximately 4.2 per cent of the national budget. According to him, the figure falls significantly below the recommendation of the African Union (AU) at the Abuja Declaration of a minimum of 15 per cent. The situation, he said, is worse at the state level.

He continued: “The infrastructure deficit is such that some of our hospitals spend a significant amount of their internally generated revenue on diesel to ensure power supply. There is scarcity of fund to apply to equipment upgrade, manpower development or even recruitment of new staff. Many of our hospitals are grossly short staffed. Even the process of replacing migrating staff is bogged down by a rigid and insensitive government bureaucracy. It is our plea to the government to commit more funds to health sector so that the system does not collapse.

“Only healthy people can have the will and strength to contribute to the growth and development of a nation’s economy. Therefore, I call on the well-meaning Nigerians, philanthropist, non-governmental organisations to join hands with the government to improve the conditions of the health system in the nation, especially Oyo state. It is obvious that the government cannot handle it alone.”

Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Ladipo, who spoke on behalf of Governor Makinde, noted that the brain drain syndrome has become an issue that should be taken with levity. He added that the state recruited about 530 medical and health personnel within the last one year, and 20 among them, including 12 consultants have left the services of the state government, saying: “We should look inward and ensure that the health system is not collapsed.”

Chief Medical Director, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Kwara State, Dr. Baba Issa, who presented the keynote address of the Chairman Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, on the theme of the scientific conference, also supported calls for declaration on state of emergency in the healthcare sector. In the keynote address of Oloriegbe that he read, the senator noted that since inception of health insurance scheme, a total of 7,762,034, representing 3.88 per cent of the 200million population of Nigeria have enrolled into the scheme, saying a lot should be done to increase the number of enrollees towards addressing issues plaguing the country’s health sector.

The Pioneer Chief Medical Director, UCH, Ibadan, Emeritus Prof Oluwole Akande, who chaired the occasion, noted that two factors have been responsible for brain drain in the country. He listed them as pull and push factors, explaining that the pull factor encompasses the incentives being used by other countries to poach the medical and health workers, while the push factor refers to conditions of service, unfriendly environment, inadequate funding and so on that have been forcing the experts to emigrate to other countries in search of greener pastures.

The Chief Medical Director of UCH, Prof Otegbayo, in his goodwill message read on the occasion, and other speakers on the occasion also emphasised the importance of the power of industrial harmony in the health sector towards boosting quality and robust healthcare in Nigeria, and shun all forms of rift that have been considered to be deleterious to the healthcare system.

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