A former President of the Guild of Medical Directors, Prof. Olufemi Dokun-Babalola has decried the lack of government support for private hospitals, noting that it is contributing to the mass movement of doctors out of the country.
The don who is a fellow of the West African College of Surgeon, said both the Federal and state governments were taxing private hospitals heavily and do not care whether they succeed or fail, adding that they sometimes suffer multiple taxations.
Prof. Dokun-Babalola disclosed this in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise.
He urged the Federal Government to wake up to its responsibilities and address the problem facing doctors in private as well as public hospitals.
The professor of ophthalmology said, “The conditions of service for doctors in Nigeria are terrible and the government seems to be nonchalant about that. That is pushing out the doctors. We are worried about the situation.
“I must say that there is a mass movement of doctors out of the country. Of course, the government needs to wake up to its responsibilities and make life more comfortable for doctors, particularly doctors who are working in government service and even for doctors who are in private service, too.
“The government does not support private practice the way they should as they do in the United Kingdom for instance. The government sees private hospitals as cash baskets, both Federal and state governments are taxing private hospitals heavily, sometimes, multiple taxations and they don’t care whether you succeed or whether you fail.
“To that effect, many private hospitals in the country fail because of the lack of support they experienced at the hands of the government. This is just compounding the issue of brain drain in the country. “
Prof. Dokun-Babalola reminded the Federal Government that the country was losing a lot by allowing its doctors to travel out, warning that Nigeria can’t have robust healthcare amid brain drain.
“And truly, things are getting critical because when the government has spent a lot of money to train the doctors and they don’t stay, it is a major loss to the country.
“For every doctor that travels out, it is a major loss to Nigeria because we are losing intellect, service, and manpower and we are sending them to countries that have more than enough doctors.
“So, at the end of the day, our healthcare system is not robust as it should be. Because our leaders can travel when they have the slightest cough, they don’t care about what is going on in the country. These are issues that sadden one,” he said.
The professor noted that the push to leave the country for greener pastures abroad among healthcare practitioners was more among young doctors.
He explained, “Over half of the doctors in the university will leave the country within one or three years of completing their training. It is difficult to persuade a young doctor to stay.”
Prof. Dokun-Babalola, however, noted, “There are still some doctors in Nigeria that are better off than those who travel out of the country. The fact that you traveled abroad doesn’t mean that at the end of your career, you are going to be better off than doctors who stayed in Nigeria because there are still opportunities for doctors here in the country.”
Suggesting the way forward he said, “The only thing is for the government to support doctors that stayed behind and make life easier for them.
“The government should give them tax holidays and stop over-taxing them, and give them an enabling environment. That is what the government should do to encourage doctors instead of leaving everyone to their fate, whether you swim or sink is none of their business.”
According to the Nigerian Medical Association, the health sector is currently battling a serious brain drain problem with no fewer than 10,296 Nigerian-trained doctors practicing in the United Kingdom.
The massive brain drain in the health sector has in the last two years assumed a frightening dimension with patients struggling to get specialist care.
The Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria in 2022 disclosed that about 500 consultants in various medical fields had left the service of government hospitals for practice abroad due to better conditions of service.
Also, the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors has said that the number of medical doctors in the country decreases daily, adding that only about 10,000 resident doctors are left.
The President of the association, Dr. Emeka Orji, said about 100 resident doctors leave the country monthly to seek greener pastures.
Insecurity, poor remuneration, and poor working conditions, among others, have been identified by experts as the factors fuelling healthcare workers’ emigration out of the country.