Patients groan as mass exodus of doctors hits Lafiya Specialist Hospital
The mass exodus of doctors and other healthcare providers has hit Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital (DASH) in Lafia, the capital of Nasarawa State.
Insecurity, harsh economic realities, low pay and deteriorating health facilities are among the main factors pushing doctors to flee Nigeria in search of greener pastures abroad.
However, for the patients and management of Dalhatu Araf Specialist Hospital in Lafia, the past few months have not been rosy as the hospital has lost at least 22 doctors to brain drain in five months. The chief medical director of the hospital, Dr. Hassan Ikrama, recently confirmed this during an award ceremony organized by the hospital management to reward staff members.
According to him, the doctors left for Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and some for other hospitals in the country. He confirmed that the hospital was overstretched although he said they were moving forward and had already secured approval from the state government for the replacement of the departed doctors.
Our correspondent, however, understood that since the government has yet to replace doctors, patients who visit the hospital say doctors and nurses are overwhelmed and sometimes speak to them in frustration. A patient who asked not to be mentioned said, “How can a doctor or a nurse look after more than fifteen patients a day? My sick father has been hospitalized for more than a month and we don’t find it easy due to the lack of manpower in the hospital.
Another patient, who spoke to our correspondent privately, said he faced many challenges due to insufficient doctors at the hospital. “The state government must act quickly to avoid losing more doctors and nurses. However, the hospital management is working to normalize things. If drastic measures are not taken to resolve the problem immediately, things could get worse,” she said.
Some of the doctors currently working at the hospital told Daily Trust on Sunday that more doctors and nurses are threatening to leave due to poor pay, poor facilities and non-payment of their allowances.
One of the doctors who pleaded anonymity for fear of being victimized said: “We haven’t received our hazard pay and as I speak to you my tax is around 200,000 naira. Every month they deduct the tax; whether it’s federal or state, I don’t know, so that’s not encouraging at all. If the state can’t do anything about it, doctors have no choice but to leave the country,” he said. He said many doctors wanted to stay and render service in their country, but were frustrated. “We don’t have enough equipment to work, even for someone who works in a government hospital.”
Another doctor, who wanted his name printed, told our correspondent that some of their agitations were high taxes and that they were overworked without the necessary allowances. He pointed out that with COVID-19 exposing the global healthcare sector to new challenges, management must take a proactive step in employing more medical personnel. “We are overwhelmed; we have a very large facility with little manpower to manage. We just have a limited number of doctors working in a particular place like this and yet some of us will be working a year from now and we can’t even remember the last time we had a good rest,” said he lamented.
Reacting to the question, the President of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Nasarawa State Chapter, Dr. Sabo Emmanuel said that the problem is not limited to Nasarawa State as it cuts across the whole country . Dr Emmanuel, who is also a consultant family doctor, said low doctor pay and deteriorating hospital facilities are some of the reasons why some doctors are leaving the country to seek greener pastures in other places. country.
“The poor working conditions and the non-application of the approved salary scale for doctors and other health workers as well as the promotion and annual increase in emoluments, security, among other reasons, explain why doctors and nurses are leaving the hospital,” he said.
He said Nigerian doctors are widely accepted abroad as they are well trained, adding that it is not only doctors who are fleeing the country but also nurses who are leaving in large numbers. “Some of them are moving to countries like the UK and Saudi Arabia. I’ll give you an example, in Saudi Arabia paying one month’s salary equals five months’ salary in Nigeria. So , if you’re a consultant over 15, the package is huge in Saudi Arabia,” he said, adding that “the temptation to leave the country and travel is great. For those of us who remained, it is out of loyalty to our country and in the service of humanity.
“As I speak to you, hazard pay has not been implemented in Nasarawa State, it has not been domesticated. We are still discussing it and the contributory pension scheme has not been implemented in the normal working population. Our doctors have died as a result of occupational hazards; we lost two doctors to Lassa fever last year and their contributory pension scheme was not paid, gratuities were not paid either,” he said.
The NMA chairman, however, applauded the state government for recently hiring some people, especially on the hospital’s management board. He pointed out that the brain drain issue goes beyond hospital management, even though the hospital has tried to be on top. “The CMD restructured the hospital in such a way that it replaced some doctors to cushion the effect of the brain drain,” he said.
However, CMD Dr Hassan Ikrama said hazard pay in Nasarawa State is the same as that obtained in federal hospitals, adding that promotions have just been implemented for all workers. eligible from the state, including health workers. “So there’s no improved salary grid that hasn’t been put in place here,” he said.
He concluded that the 22 doctors who left the hospital will be replaced, adding that applications are being received and they will be interviewed within two weeks as management was following civil service rules to ensure accountability.