Study Reveals cause of “Japa” Brain Drain in Nigerian Health Sector

There has been a flurry of emigration activities in Nigeria that has raised poignant concerns over the socio-economic implications of brain drain on the nation’s development.

A recent study has detailed the gaps in humans resources and finances in recent years which has exacerbated the migration of health workers in search of better conditions.

This study was conducted by the Senior Executive Course 44 Programme of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru in Jos, Plateau State.

The study titled, ‘Strengthening local governance in Nigeria’, with focus on challenges, options and opportunities and nearing conclusion has the health sector and how to strengthen it at the subnational level in Nigeria as its thematic focus.

The Director-General of the NIPSS (a parastatal of the Presidency), Professor Ayo Omotayo, said these in his speech delivered in Abuja on the 19th of October, 2022 during a one-day national policy dialogue and symposium on ‘Nigeria’s recent health sector brain drain and its implications for sustainable child and family health service delivery and financing in the context of new national health priorities.’

The programme was organised by the NIPSS in collaboration with the development Research and Projects Centre, a non-governmental organisation.

Omotayo said, “We consider this meeting crucial for the simple reason that we are considering a crucial issue of national importance; that is, the brain drain or what others have called the skilled migration from the health sector of our country.

“The NIPSS, as the government’s foremost and apex think tank, is concluding a study on ‘strengthening local governance in Nigeria’, with focus on challenges, options, and opportunities under the Senior Executive Course 44 programme.

“One of the thematic areas is the health sector and how to strengthened it at the sub-national level in our country. Some of the initial findings show that the health sector in Nigeria, among others is facing a financing and human resource gap in the last few years.

“This has partly ignited the continuous migration of Nigerian health workers abroad in search of better work. It is a source of concern because this is leading to a reduction in the number of health workers in the country.”

According to him, Nigeria currently, has the third highest number of foreign medical doctors working in the United Kingdom after India and Pakistan, making the doctors to patient ratio in the country to be 1:10,000 as against the recommendation of 1:1,000 by the World Health Organization.

“Nigeria lost over 9,000 medical doctors to the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States of America between 2016 and 2018. A total of 727 medical doctors trained in Nigeria relocated to the United Kingdom alone in six months, between December 2021 and May 2022”, he said.

Quoting data from the Register of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of the United Kingdom, the NIPSS DG said the number of Nigeria-trained Nurses increased by 68.4 per cent from 2,790 in March 2017 to 7,256 in March 2022.

Omotayo said, “What is more worrisome is the fact that this trend of skill migration from the health sector is happening when our population is expanding geometrically. It is estimated that by 2030, there will be 272.5 million Nigerians. This implies that there will be no medical doctors to meet the medical needs of the population.

“This therefore calls for an improved health workers’ supply to tackle the supply deficit in order to solve the disease burden and positively turn the tide of health indicators. In addition, there is the urgent need for our country to meet the 15 per cent allocation of the total domestic budget to the health sector as pledged by Nigeria and African countries in 2001.”

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