The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, says doctors who feel they want to relocate in search of greener pastures are free to do so as the nation has enough medical personnel.
Ngige said this on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.
The minister was responding to a question on brain drain and the deliberate recruitment of Nigerian doctors by foreign embassies in Nigeria to the detriment of the nation’s health sector.
In his response, however, Ngige, who is also a medical doctor, said there was nothing wrong with doctors leaving the country as they would continue to send foreign exchange home which could, in turn, grow the economy.
He said, “No, I am not worried (about doctors leaving the country). We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.
“There are surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. In my area, we have excess.
“Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.”
When asked if he was sure of what he was saying, the minister said it was good for doctors to travel out as they would receive training from abroad and open up centres in Nigeria.
“Will you call that brain drain? I know a couple of them who practise abroad but set up medical centres back home. They have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss,” he said.
When asked if brain drain was not hurting the health sector, he said, “Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don’t have neurosurgeons here.”
Nigeria is believed to be one of the most affected countries in the world as regards emigration of medical doctors.
With an estimated population of over 180 million, there is one doctor per 5,000 people in Nigeria, according to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, compared with the World Health Organization recommendation of one per 600 people.
There are 72,000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria; over half practise outside the country.
Nine in every 10 doctors are considering work opportunities outside Nigeria. And it is projected to keep rising as doctors continue to face systemic challenges, according to NOI polls .