Neurosurgeon calls for proactive measures to curb medical tourism, brain drain

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Dr Charles Ugwuanyi, a Neurosurgeon with the National Hospital Abuja, has called for proactive measures to tackle medical tourism and brain drain in Nigeria.

Ugwuanyi made the call on Thursday at the ongoing 2020 Annual General Meeting and scientific conference of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Federal Medical Centre (FMC) Jabi Chapter, Abuja.

He said that rather than being reactive, government and other stakeholders should come up with proactive measures to save the nation the dire consequences of the ugly trends.

Ugwuanyi, while delivering a keynote on the “Damaging Effect of Brain Drain in the Face of COVID-19”, at the conference, lamented the high rate of medical tourism and medical brain drain in Nigeria.

“The most painful aspect is that some doctors who have benefited from government magnanimity are leaving at the detriment of the country,” he said.

This, according to him, was causing capital flight and robbing the country of its professional health workers and development of the health sector.

He listed some of the reasons for medical tourism to include lack of steady power supply and some citizens’ preference for anything foreign.

Ugwuanyi said decayed infrastructure and equipment, increased brain drain, incessant industrial strike and insecurity were also contributory factors.

To address medical tourism, he suggested strengthening of the local platform and implementation of the National Healthcare Act 2015.

The Head of Clinical Services, FMC Abuja, Dr Joseph Eziechila, in his keynote titled “Impact of COVID-19 (the New Normal) on the Nigeria health System” called for joint efforts to address the second wave of COVID-19.

Eziechila noted that the impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria was enormous.

“Going forward, there must be joint effort by the government and individuals to come out of the pandemic,” he said.

The doctor said that direct impact of the pandemic include disruption of treatment of non-communicable diseases, increased pressure on health facilities, and high cost of medical consumable goods such as facemasks and hand sanitizers.

According to him, the indirect impact include economic recession, increase in cases of sexual vices and domestic violence.

He said that COVID-19 had its positive impact, including the awakening of citizens’ consciousness on cleanliness, and reduction in medical tourism.

“Due to COVID-19, it is no longer a case of when you have headache you take the next available flight to UK, U.S, Germany or India.”

Dr Enema Amodu, the Chairman Nigerian Medical Association, Federal Capital Territory Chapter (NMA-FCT), who was the chairman on the occasion, said that the trend of brain drain in Nigeria had taken a new dimension.

“In the past it used to be junior staff leaving. This time around, the pattern has changed. Our specialists, professionals, even trained specialists are leaving.

“From all strata of the health sector, people are going. Doctors are going, nurses are going, radiologists are going. It has gone so low that even medical students are going.

“If things continue like this for the next five years it will be very bad,” he said.

The Board Director, FMC Jabi, Tosan Alex, represented by Tolu Fakeye, stressed the need for rightful positioning of doctors in areas they were mostly needed in the country.

Fakeye also stressed the need for state governments to start absorbing new medical graduates.

The Managing Director, Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN), Mr Ahmed Dangiwa, in his remarks, appealed to the Federal Government to recapitalise the bank to the tune of N500b.

Dangiwa, represented by Deputy General Manager and Group Head, Corporate Communications, Lawal Kofar-Sauri, said the recapitalisation was important to boost the capacity of the bank to deliver on its mandate.

He said that the recapitalization should be done as recommended by the National Council on Lands, Housing and Urban Development in 2017 and 2018.

Dangiwa said that notwithstanding the challenges, FMBN was doing its best to meet the yearnings of Nigerians.

He assured all stakeholders of the continued support and cooperation of the FMBN toward the advancement of affordable home ownership for Nigerians.

“The FMBN, as at today, is the last succour of the common man through its affordable mortgages and home construction financing.

“Our National Housing Fund mortgage loans, granted at six per cent, is the lowest in the country,” he said.