Health, Lifestyle

Why doctors leave Nigeria, effects and solutions

Why doctors leave Nigeria, effects and solutions

Here’s a disturbing fact – Nigeria’s health sector is in trouble. Doctors leave Nigeria for other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, for better opportunities.

The Nigeria Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) disclosed that there are only 12,297 resident doctors in the country’s federal and state tertiary health institutions. This means that the doctor-patient ratio, which is 1:9,083, is devastatingly worse than the WHO’s standard ratio of 1:600.

Nigeria has a population of over 200 million, which means the country needs at least 363,000 additional doctors to meet the WHO standard. And here we are battling with less than 20,000, with some probably finalizing plans to relocate to Europe, America, or even the Middle East.

So why are these doctors leaving? What’s the impact of the massive brain drain? What’s to be done to address the situation? Keep reading to find out.

Why doctors leave Nigeria

1. Poor work tools

Poor work tools

Most Nigerian hospitals and health care centres are under-equipped with facilities and tools for doctors to work with. Many patients in emergency cases die due to a lack of facilities to treat these cases. Imagine a doctor asking a patient’s family to buy gloves because there are none available in the hospital. How about a doctor asking a family to buy oxygen for their loved one because the one in the hospital has finished? These are just a few examples of what these doctors must go through daily. At least abroad, they don’t have to worry about these things because they’re available. So they move.

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2. Poor working environment

Poor working environment

As if working with limited tools is not enough, add working in a very unconducive environment to the picture. Otherwise, can you explain why a doctor should perform a major surgery using only torchlight? How about setting up an intravenous fluid infusion for babies via the scalp using a lantern light held up by colleagues? Why? Simple answer. PHCN have done their “normal” thing, and the backup generator is acting up. Next time when doctors, especially in the public sector, go on strike, try to understand them.

3. Poor remuneration and appreciation

Poor remuneration and appreciation

With the appalling doctor-patient ratio in Nigeria, one would think the few that chose to remain in the country would be well paid and appreciated for their efforts and sacrifice. But nope, these doctors are still not getting their dues even though most are overworked due to a lack of personnel. There are reported cases of doctors collapsing during operations.

According to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), over 20 doctors died during the COVID-19 pandemic, effectively reducing the number of the already dwindling population of doctors in Nigeria. These are people that should be treated as demigods for their good works. Yet, they must go on strike action before their demands are heard. Of course, no doctor wants to go hungry or struggle to provide basic needs for his family despite putting in donkey hours to work. So they prefer to find greener pastures abroad with their valuable skills.

4. Insecurity


The insecurity situation in Nigeria has grown worse over the years. The country has to deal with Boko Haram insurgents, bandits, unknown gunmen, militants, kidnappers and other agents of insecurity in the country. Doctors are also vulnerable due to their respected profession. Cases of doctors being kidnapped in Nigeria are common. Many have chosen to flee the country for their lives.

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Effects of doctors leaving Nigeria

The number one effect of doctors leaving Nigeria is the massive brain drain in the country. Doctors are leaving Nigeria in their thousands every year. This means there are a lot of crucial positions to fill but very few qualified people to fill them.

Also, the doctor-patient ratio is devastating news in the media and can affect the masses. It means many people may not have access to doctors. You can translate it to mean a patient with a serious illness is as good as gone because there is no doctor to treat him or her. They’re all in Europe, America and the Middle East.

Speaking of patients, the exodus of doctors to other countries will contribute to a high death rate in the country. The doctors in the country are often overworked and tired. Some of them succumb to their fatigue, while others are bitter doctors you don’t want anywhere you are. What happens is that they become neglectful of their jobs and would rather do nothing to save a patient. Hospital and doctors’ negligence is nothing new in Nigeria. Patients are known to have died due to the lackadaisical attitude of doctors and nurses.

Doctors leaving Nigeria also have negative effects on the nation’s economy. Medical tourism is one of the major avenues for a country to generate money. Sadly, it’s not happening in Nigeria because the wealthy and influential prefer to travel abroad for medical treatment.

Also, doctors leaving Nigeria means that investors will be reluctant to invest in the health sector in Nigeria.

How to prevent doctors from leaving Nigeria

To reverse the worrisome brain drain happening in the health sector, the government should take certain steps to prevent doctors from leaving Nigeria.

Let’s make something clear. The government cannot stop anyone, including doctors, from leaving the country except for criminal reasons. Everyone has the right to stay or leave. However, there are things the government can do to induce doctors to stay in the country.

  • The health sector should be properly funded. In 2001, African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15%  of their annual budget to improve the health sector. Only 5% has been allocated to Nigeria’s health sector for 2022. This needs to be addressed urgently.
  • The government should provide the needed infrastructure, such as good roads and transport systems, water supply, security, and stable energy, among others, to ensure they create a good health care system.
  • Doctors should be well paid and appreciated with certain financial incentives.
  • There should be a constitutional review of the Enforcement of the Bill of Patients’ Rights in Nigeria and National Health Insurance.
  • Officials should be held accountable for their positions in ensuring the running of the health sector. Those found to be corrupt should be made to face the law.

Doctors leaving Nigeria statistics

Former NMA President, Prof. Innocent Ujah, revealed during Channels TV breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, that about 80 thousand Nigerians had been trained as doctors, but over 50% have left the country.

Present NMA President, Uche Rowland,  revealed more details in a symposium saying, “In 2015, 233 Nigerian doctors moved to the UK; in 2016 the number increased to 279; in 2017 the figure was 475, in 2018, the figure rose to 852, in 2019 it jumped to 1,347; in 2020, the figure was 833 and in 2021 was put at 932.”

The total number of Nigerian doctors in the UK alone has been estimated at 9,976. Rowland disclosed that Nigeria has the highest number of foreign doctors in the UK after India and Pakistan.

Finally, while the US and UK are top destinations for Nigerian doctors, many migrate to Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Oman.

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Nonye is a Thespian, screenwriter, creative writer and an unapologetic lover of books, great movies and sports. She has over 10 years experience in content writing on entertainment, movies, sports and lifestyle. Nonye is currently a content writer at Blackdot Media and founder of
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