Nigeria will continue to lose its best medical professionals to other countries if the government does not revive its health institutions, a medical expert has said.
A Nigerian physiotherapist in diaspora, Abiodun Akinwuntan, at the 2nd International Conference of Medical Rehabilitation Professionals (ICMRP) in Abuja on Thursday, said many ‘rehabilitation professionals’ trained in Nigeria have left the shores for greener pastures.
This, he said, is due to lack of employment, poor remuneration, and lack of opportunities for new and specialised training.
The ICMRP conference is a biannual event, with the year’s theme: “Strategic initiative for sustainable medical rehabilitation services in Nigeria and Sub -Saharan Africa’.
Mr Akinwuntan is a professor of physical therapy, ophthalmology and neurology but had his first degree in Nigeria.
He is currently the Dean of the School of Health Professionals at the University of Kansas.
Mr Akinwuntan said for the country to effectively compete with other countries in terms of healthcare delivery, it must be ready to invest in the training of medical health rehabilitation workers.
He said every profession in the medical field has its area of specialisation and “as such should all be treated as important”.
He said Nigerian medical sector will not progress and would always experience medical tourism and brain drain if it does not focus on rehabilitation treatment for patients.
He said many Nigerians who seek medical treatment outside the country do so because of the specialised after-treatment needed.
“Brain drain has affected more rehabilitation therapists in the country and no one is talking about it. The doctors, nurses and dentist are good in preventive and curative treatment, but what happens to the rehabilitation of the patients after treatment?
“The dearth of the profession in Nigeria needs to be a thing for concern, the geriatric population is becoming higher and nobody is doing anything about it. Nigeria has lost most of the rehabilitation professionals trained in U.I, OAU and University of Lagos to other countries, the government needs to take this more serious and begin extensive training for professionals,” he said.
Mr Akinwuntan explained that medical rehabilitation is key in patient treatment “because it allows for patients who have undergone surgery or lose some parts of their abilities to learn coping mechanism”.
The rehabilitation process help ease their transition into living, he added.
He gave an example of a person “who lost a limb to diabetes, foot or speech to stroke, the patients would need rehabilitation therapy to adapt to the circumstances”.
“Nigeria has to improve on good training programme for it health rehabilitation officers because the country for a long time have focused mostly on few profession. Our rehabilitation technique is not complete because we are not focusing on other new rehabilitation technique, available in advanced countries,” he said.
Mr Akinwuntan explained that “there are lots of specialisations in the profession which are yet to be taught or available to patients in the Nigerian health space”.
He urged the government to reposition the trainings in Nigeria to global standard.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, in his welcome address said the ministry is concerned about the increasing number of health professionals leaving the country.
Mr Abdullahi said the ministry is also keen on reviving the health sector and is also partnering with private investors.
He said the ministry has established a department for public private partnership and diaspora initiative.
He said the diaspora initiative is a collaboration between the government and Nigerian medical professionals working abroad.
“We have signed a MOU where they can come home and serve in any of the health facilities of their choice for one month. The idea is for them to take a month leave from their place of work abroad to work in the health facilities where they can share experiences and knowledge with medical professional in the country.
“The essence is that through the brain drain, we can also achieve brain gain,” he said.
Mr Abdullahi said the government is ready to begin the process as funding for the programme is included in this year’s budget.
He also said the government is making plans for people living with disabilities as the National Health Act has provision for them.