While Nigeria suffers from insufficient doctors and has a doctor-patient ratio over five times worse than the WHO recommendation, the country still loses hundreds of doctors annually to brain drain, a large number of them to the UK.
In a bid to address the increasing number of medical doctors leaving Nigeria for greener pastures, the House of Representatives on Thursday, passed a bill.
The bill is to prevent Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioners from being granted full licenses until they have worked for a minimum of five years in the country.
The bill has passed second reading.
Sponsored by Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson, it is titled ‘the Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act 2004’.
Johnson said it was only fair for medical practitioners, who enjoyed taxpayer’s subsidies on their training, to “give back to the society” by working for a minimum number of years in Nigeria before exporting their skills abroad.
Many lawmakers supported the bill though a number of them called for flexibility and options in the envisaged law.
However, a majority voice vote passed the bill for second reading at the plenary presided by Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila.
According to officials, at least 5,600 Nigerian medical doctors have migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) in the last eight years.
The President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Uche Rowland, announced the figure in October, last year, at a symposium to discuss the brain drain in Nigeria’s health sector and its implications on health service delivery.
The figures were also contained in a document produced by the development Research and Project Centre (dRPC), co-organizers of the symposium.
“In 2015, 233 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK; in 2016 the number increased to 279; in 2017 the figure was 475, in 2018, the figure rose to 852, in 2019 it jumped to 1,347; in 2020, the figure was 833 and in 2021 was put at 932,” Mr. Rowland said.
He also said a total of 727 medical doctors trained in Nigeria relocated to the UK in six months, between December 2021 and May this year; an indication that the total figure for 2022 would be higher than previous years.
Rowland said Nigeria has the highest number of foreign doctors in the UK after India and Pakistan.
He said data from the UK medical councils shows that there are 9,976 Nigerian doctors in the country.
He said while the UK and the US are the top two destinations for Nigerian medical doctors seeking job opportunities abroad, many are also migrating to Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman.
“We are not just losing the consultants, we are losing fresh graduate doctors too,” he said.