Exodus of medical practitioners risking hospital shutdown

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More teaching hospitals might shut down due to shortage of nurses and doctors on account of their massive relocation abroad, President of Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Dele Abdullahi, has indicated. The fear follows reports that the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Idi-Araba, has shut five wards, with 150 beds capacity over the development.

The House of Representatives Committee on Health had, on Tuesday, during an oversight visit to the medical institution, stressed the negative impact of relocation on the country’s health manpower. Its chairman, Dr. Amos Magaji, had described the situation as worrisome, assuring that the legislative arm of government was working round the clock to reverse the trend and address medical tourism.
The NARD boss told journalists that the LUTH scenario was a reflection of happenings in the 52 federal health institutions (FHIs) nationwide. He said the acute shortage of doctors was leading to burnout of members, adding that they have proposed a one-for-one replacement policy to address the issue. Abdulahi observed that despite intervention of the National Assembly and Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), the Federal Government had not employed more doctors or replaced the ones leaving.
He said the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH) began an indefinite strike on December 1 after their demand to increase doctor employment and enhance security within a 14-day timeframe issued on November 18 was not heeded by the state government. The doctors said it had been 120 days since the Enugu government promised employment of medical officers and resident doctors.

Abudullahi warned that if the Federal Government failed to meet their demands by January 2024, industrial harmony could not be guaranteed.

The NARD helmsman, who is a resident doctor at University of Ilorin, submitted that the issue of shortage of doctors was getting worse, and the government was just beginning to realize it. The Minister of Health declared a state of emergency in the sector during the just-concluded National Council of Health (NCH) in Ekiti State.

As of now, a section of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital (OAUTH), the Behavioral Science/Psychiatry, has been shut. According to latest figures from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), there is one doctor to 10,000 patients in Nigeria against the recommended World Health Organisation (WHO) of one doctor to 600 patients.

“I can tell you that it has got worse. Doctors are leaving the country on a daily basis. The situation has resulted in massive burnout of doctors nationwide. NARD is compiling work on ideal manpower that the country needs. Between January and July 2023, 900 doctors left the country and another 900 say they want to leave. We request for ‘one replace one’ policy. The idea is to maintain even the suboptimal level we were before now. We are hoping that the Federal Government can look at this policy. It is not just about the shortage of doctors in LUTH, but in Lagos. How many doctors do we have in Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) Ikeja? They are insufficient. There is no health institution in Nigeria that can say they have sufficient manpower” Dr. Dele Abdullahi said.


Lagos University Teaching Hospital


A visit to LUTH confirmed the report by the House of Representative panel. However, normal activities were going on at the hospital, and one would not easily notice that some of the wards had been shut down. Efforts to speak to the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof. Wasiu Lanre Adeyemo, proved abortive, as he did not pick his calls. Also, the medium could not reach the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN).

But secretary of NANNM, Toba Odumosu, said: “The situation is getting dangerous. More people are leaving. We are experiencing acute shortage, and it is affecting quality of care. We have to bear more burdens. The situation is that more nurses want to go abroad. The response of the government is not commensurate. We are calling for a state of emergency. We don’t know what the budget for next year will be. It is time we started looking at the recommended 15 per cent of national yearly budget for health”.
A Consultant Endocrinologist and former chairman, Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) at LUTH, Prof. Olufemi Fasanmade, said no tertiary hospital or ward could cope with severe shortage of nurses, noting that they are closer to patients.

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