Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi has stated that it is cheaper to make a doctor in Nigeria compared to developed countries.
The professor said this while speaking during a panel discussion on the theme, “Healthcare in Nigeria – Beyond the crisis” at the Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce Conference and Exhibition.
According to him, the movement of health professionals is an interesting phenomenon that entails push factors; situations warranting health professionals to leave, as well as the pull factors; the need for a better place to advance their career.
Abayomi stated that to address the pull factor, there is a need to consider the economics of things. Speaking on the cost of making a doctor or a health professional up to the first degree (medical qualifying degree) in Nigeria, he said “It’s actually very cheap to make a doctor in Nigeria compared to American or Europe – about 100 times cheaper. Although we are not making many health specialists, the few we make go into a much more sophisticated environment (developed countries) where they acquire skills and become specialists in all kinds of medical discipline.
Commenting on how to turn around the alarming brain drain in the country to Nigeria’s advantage, he pointed out the need to develop specialist centres in the public and private sector.
He said, “There is the issue of brain drain and Nigerians becoming experts in the diaspora in whatever field they have chosen to progress in. What we have to do to develop specialist centres in the public sector and also create an enabling environment for the private sectors to develop specialist expertise.
“Whenever we see specialist going abroad to acquire skills that is probably not here, we seriously encourage it. We believe that is going to complete a circle. If we create a specialist centre for them to come back, it becomes ‘brain gain’. Europe and America spend millions of pounds developing them into highly qualified specialists, it is now our opportunity to get them back so that it becomes a huge economic gain for us.
Speaking on how technology has accelerated healthcare, he said the plans by Lagos State to co-opt technology into health care were hastened by Covid. He said, “Having realized that Covid was going to overwhelm us, we did two things; first, we change our management of Covid into the community because we were diagnosing more people than we could possibly look after in the isolation centres.
“We realized we would need to be building one isolation centre every day to cope with the numbers of cases we were seeing so we moved quickly to a home base care and a home-based care required digital technology so we pulled on the private sector space that had already developed this virtual consultation and we set up the Eko telemedicine which allowed us to manage 80% of Covid cases through virtual tech.
“Secondly, we realized that because of the increasing number of Covid cases, the government or the public sector was not able that alone, so we invited the private sector. As of the third or fourth wave, we could say about 70 to 80 percent of Lagos Covid cases were outsourced to the private sector and that accounted for a huge Covid response.”