"When you have a surplus, you export."
That was what the Federal Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, had to say when asked to comment on the rapid migration of doctors from Nigeria in 2016.
It's difficult to tell whether the Minister was being diplomatic or oblivious to the shortage of healthcare personnel in the country; either way, it was a shocking response to what is obviously an urgent crisis.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that Nigeria has about 76,000 doctors. Still, reports and medical personnel associations suggest that there are 40,000 healthcare practitioners providing healthcare to over 200 million people in the country. This means that there isn't up to one doctor to attend to 1,000 people in Nigeria, much less than the four doctors per 1,000 people recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Nigerian healthcare workers are leaving in droves, and the government seems to be oblivious of the impact of their exit.
It is unlikely that the healthcare sector would improve well enough to prevent them from leaving, so we need innovations like Telemedicine to get them to continue consulting for Nigerian patients.
However, Telemedicine has its challenges. To surmount these challenges, we need a go-between to connect the health workers with patients so that none is worse off.
Many Nigerian doctors have recently fled Nigeria to practice in more developed countries in Europe and the US. There are estimates that between 2016 and 2020, over 4,500 doctors migrated from Nigeria to the UK. The World Bank also confirms that in 2018 alone, 1,451 Nigerian doctors migrated to the UK, exacerbating our brain drain.
In short, we don't have enough doctors, so despite what the Minister