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Japa Crisis Deepens: Impact of Doctor Relocation on Nigerian Hospitals

In a grim revelation, the president of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Dr. Dele Abdullahi, has expressed concerns that more teaching hospitals in Nigeria might face closure due to a severe shortage of nurses and doctors. This alarming situation has been triggered by the mass migration of medical professionals abroad, posing a significant threat to the country’s healthcare system.

LUTH Closure Sparks Fears

Lagos University Teaching Hospital Takes a Hit

The apprehension surrounding the shortage of healthcare professionals escalated when reports surfaced about the closure of five wards, amounting to 150 beds, at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). This development sounded the alarm bells for the House of Representatives Committee on Health, which acknowledged the negative repercussions on the nation’s health manpower during an oversight visit to LUTH.

Chairman of the committee, Dr. Amos Magaji, expressed deep concern over the impact of this trend and assured that legislative measures were underway to reverse it. The closure of critical wards underscores the severity of the situation, prompting urgent action to address the challenges faced by medical institutions.

Stay informed about healthcare developments at LUTH

The National Scale: A Widespread Crisis

Reflection of Nationwide Challenges

Dr. Abdullahi, the president of NARD, emphasized that the scenario at LUTH is not an isolated incident but mirrors the crisis unfolding in the 52 federal health institutions (FHIs) across Nigeria. The shortage of doctors has reached a critical level, leading to burnout among healthcare professionals. To counteract this trend, NARD has proposed a one-for-one replacement policy as a viable solution.

Despite interventions by the National Assembly and the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), the federal government has failed to address the shortage adequately. Dr. Abdullahi revealed that the lack of employment or replacement for departing doctors remains a persistent issue, exacerbating the challenges faced by healthcare institutions nationwide.

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For the latest updates, follow NARD on Twitter.

State-Specific Challenges: The Enugu Struggle

ARD Enugu’s Indefinite Strike

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Dr. Abdullahi pointed to the impending indefinite strike by the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH). The strike, scheduled to commence on December 1, stems from the Enugu state government’s failure to fulfill promises made 120 days ago regarding the employment of medical officers and resident doctors.

The dire situation in Enugu serves as a microcosm of the broader challenges facing healthcare professionals across the country. Dr. Abdullahi warned that if the Federal Government does not meet their demands by January 2024, industrial harmony cannot be guaranteed, potentially deepening the crisis.

Stay connected with Enugu State University Teaching Hospital

A Nationwide Exodus: Doctors Leaving in Droves

Escalating Shortage and Daily Migrations

Dr. Abdullahi highlighted the escalating shortage of doctors, with a staggering number leaving the country on a daily basis. Despite declarations of a state of emergency in the health sector by the Minister of Health, the shortage persists. Shockingly, between January and July 2023, 900 doctors left Nigeria, and an additional 900 expressed their intention to follow suit.

The gravity of the situation becomes even more apparent when considering the current doctor-patient ratio in Nigeria. According to figures from the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), there is one doctor for every 10,000 patients, far exceeding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio of one doctor per 600 patients.

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Get updates from Nigerian Medical Association and MDCN

Addressing the Crisis: Calls for Urgent Solutions

Proposed Solutions and Policy Advocacy

In the face of this healthcare crisis, Dr. Abdullahi stressed the urgent need for the adoption of a ‘one replace one’ policy. This proposal aims to maintain, at the very least, the suboptimal level of healthcare professionals that existed before the escalation of the crisis. The Association is hopeful that the Federal Government will consider and implement this policy to mitigate the worsening shortage of doctors.

The NARD president also emphasized the critical importance of collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). He urged the implementation of the National Digital Agriculture Strategy to leverage technology for the advancement of the agricultural sector.

Explore NARD’s efforts towards healthcare advocacy.

Verification at LUTH: The Ground Reality

LUTH Confirmation and Unseen Consequences

A visit to LUTH confirmed the House of Representatives Committee’s report on the closure of five wards. While normal activities seemingly continued at the hospital, the underlying impact of closed wards remains a looming threat to patient care. Efforts to reach the Chief Medical Director (CMD), Prof. Wasiu Lanre Adeyemo, were unsuccessful, emphasizing the complexity and urgency of the situation.

Efforts to gather insights from nursing associations, including the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) and Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), were also hindered.

Stay informed about LUTH developments for ongoing updates.

Challenges Expressed by NANNM: A Cry for Help

Nursing Shortage and the Call for Emergency Measures

Toba Odumosu, the secretary of NANNM, echoed the severity of the situation, emphasizing the increasing danger as more healthcare professionals consider leaving the country. The acute shortage of nurses is affecting the quality of care, burdening existing healthcare providers, and creating a healthcare crisis. Odumosu called for a state of emergency and advocated for a minimum of 15% of the national yearly budget to be allocated to the health sector.

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Connect with NANNM to understand the challenges faced by nurses.

Expert Insights: The Crucial Role of Nurses in Tertiary Hospitals

Consultant’s Perspective on Nurse Shortage

Professor Olufemi Fasanmade, a Consultant Endocrinologist and former chairman of the Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) at LUTH, emphasized the critical role of nurses in tertiary hospitals. He noted that severe shortages of nurses could cripple the functioning of hospitals, as they play a vital role in patient care due to their proximity to the patients.

For more insights, follow Prof. Fasanmade on LinkedIn.

Conclusion: A Looming Healthcare Catastrophe

The shortage of doctors and nurses in Nigerian hospitals is not just a localized issue but a nationwide crisis with potentially catastrophic consequences. Urgent and comprehensive measures are required to address the root causes, retain healthcare professionals, and attract new talent. The collaboration between the government, healthcare associations, and stakeholders is paramount to avert an impending healthcare catastrophe

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