MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has countered the notion of brain drain of Nigerian medical professionals.
Speeking in a national television program yesterday, he reasoned that instead of tagging the migration of Nigeria-trained medical practitioners abroad, a trend of brain-drain, it should be deemed a big gain.
The minister, who is a medical practitioner by profession said that there was already a glut of medical doctors in Nigeria hence those who find opportunities to relocate in search of greener pastures are free to do so as experience has shown that the country often gains from such migrations in terms of the professional experience and economic returns.
Ngige spoke in an interview on Channels Television’s ‘Sunrise Daily’ monitored on Wednesday by ‘National Light’. The minister reasoned that though deliberate recruitment of Nigerian doctors by foreign embassies in Nigeria may appear to be at the detriment of the nation’s health sector, it eventually culminates to good fortune.
According to Dr. Ngige, there is nothing wrong with doctors leaving the country as they would continue to send foreign exchange home which could, in turn, grow the economy. He noted that countries, such as India, Pakistan among others once passed through the same phase.
His words: “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.
“They were surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is 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 traveling 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 (from crude) oil.”
The minister added that it bodes good for doctors to travel out to developed countries as they would receive higher training and experience the use of more advanced equipment in their institutions of practice abroad, from where they would return to open up comprehensively equiped medical centres in their homelands in Nigeria.
“Will you call that brain drain? I know a couple of them who practise abroad but they have set up medical centres back home. If you go to their hospitals, they have CAT scan, MRI scan which even the government cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss,” he said.
Asked if the trend 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.”
Sources cite Nigeria as one of the active countries in emigration of medical doctors.
According to the federal Ministry of Health, there is one doctor for 5,000 people in Nigeria, a far cry from the recommended one for 600 people by World Health Organisation (WHO).
Sources from the registry of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria indicate that there are 72,000 registerred doctors catering for over 180 million Nigerians.