More than 2,000 Nigerian medical workers leave the country annually for developed countries, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has said.

Francis Faduyile, President of the Association, stated this at the Annual General Conference/Delegates meeting of the association in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, on Thursday.

He said the drift informed the choice of the theme for the meeting, ‘Skill Repatriation in the Health Sector: Turning Nigeria’s Brain Drain to Brain Gain.’

“We believe this ugly situation can be turned to an advantage, hence the need to bring this to the front burner for discussion and proffer a way out to the country’s advantage," he said.

Faduyile also claimed politicians in the country seemed not to be worried by the trend, because they did not have necessary statistics and facts on the matter.

“Without intent at generating further controversy on the matter arising from the unfortunate remark by a senior cabinet member of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who incidentally or coincidentally doubles as a senior member of the medical profession, it is our firm belief that this gathering will generate further statistics and facts that possibly will be enough in convincing those policymakers at critical MDAs of government at all levels, including the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity who perhaps have yet to come to reality with the scientifically unambiguous deleterious aftermath of the worsening disparity between the health workforce in general and the population. Then, they can join us in the clarion call for action and be committed to instituting necessary actions,” Faduyile said.

Isaac Adewole, Minister of Health, also expressed worry at the increasing rate of brain drain in the country’s medical sector.

Represented by Emeka Onwe, the Chief Medical Director of Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, the minister said the government was working hard to end the exodus of medical workers from the country.

He said: “I am not particularly happy with the latest trend of doctors leaving the country to other lands for greener pastures. We shall continue to ensure that the welfare of the health workforce is improved. Our effort at centralising the internship posting of newly graduated doctors has received the support of the Federal Executive Council and will be rolled out within the year.”

Adewole said the government had instituted a programme geared towards engaging doctors who had acquired latest skills and knowledge that would transform the health sector.

“The ministry will continue to improve on these activities to encourage the diasporans to make increased contribution to our health care delivery,” he said.

The minister also expressed concern over the inability of some state governments to recruit and keep medical doctors, including specialists, in their secondary and tertiary hospitals.

“In many cases, most local government health facilities do not have doctors. These are related to poor welfare and remuneration package at various levels amongst other factors,” he said.

Declaring the conference open, David Umahi, Governor of Ebonyi State, promised to continue to support doctors and other health care practitioners in the state.

He said his administration would commence the construction of a new teaching hospital in June for the state university’s medical school in Uburu.

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