It is well known that the departure of educated and highly trained Africans from their continent is a significant break on development. With respect to medical doctors, the president of the Nigeria Medical Association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, MD, placed this reality in high relief in a press interview on September 27.
Dr. Enabulele said that of 71,740 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council, only 27,000 are practicing in Nigeria. He said some 7,000 Nigerian medical doctors (MD) work in public health in the United Kingdom and the United States while others have left the medical profession altogether. Various Nigerian diaspora websites place the number of Nigerian MDs in the U.S. at much higher.
According to the press, the World Health Organization’s standard is one medical doctor to six hundred patients. In the United States, that ratio is one to three hundred, according to the 2004 census. That standard indicates that Nigeria would need more than 280,000 MDs for its population of some 170 million. By that standard, Nigeria registers about a quarter of the MDs it needs, but it has only about 10 percent of the physicians its population size requires practicing in the country.
Nigeria is thus training MDs for the first world that it badly needs at home. But MDs in Nigeria are notoriously underpaid and overworked. Among physicians of my acquaintance there is no shortage of dedication and devotion to their patients. But there is widespread frustration at the lack of supplies and pharmaceuticals, and the low level of training amongst nurses and medical technicians is concerning.
Considering the poor conditions of public hospitals in Nigeria, working in public health in Manchester or Houston can be attractive.