On Monday, October 23rd, the alarming state of Nigeria’s healthcare system came under scrutiny as more doctors continued to leave the country, seeking better opportunities and safer working conditions abroad. The tragic incident involving Vwaere Diaso, a young doctor who lost her life due to a malfunctioning lift at a Lagos hospital, has intensified the outcry. The 26-year-old’s untimely death, coupled with the deplorable state of facilities in the state-run establishment, has ignited anger and frustration among her peers.
The challenges faced by Nigeria’s healthcare system are not new. For years, the country has seen a steady outflow of medical professionals seeking better pay and working conditions overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that at least 2,000 Nigerian doctors emigrate annually to countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The lure of higher salaries abroad is undeniable, with Nigerian doctors earning a fraction of what their counterparts in the UK make.
However, the exodus is not solely motivated by financial reasons. The dire state of medical facilities, lack of essential equipment, and the risks associated with working in such conditions have made staying in Nigeria a life-threatening choice for many doctors. Stories of medical professionals having to improvise due to lack of equipment or even working non-stop for 72 hours paint a grim picture of the ground realities.
The aftermath of Diaso’s tragic incident saw swift actions from the Lagos state government, which included the firing of the hospital facility manager and the suspension of the agency head responsible for maintaining the lift. However, these measures barely scratch the surface of the deep-rooted issues plaguing the healthcare system.
Dr. Fejiro Chinye-Nwoko, general manager at the Nigerian Solidarity Support Fund, emphasized the need for a robust health system capable of forecasting, planning, and adequately responding to health emergencies. The current doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria stands at a dismal one doctor to 10,000 people, far below the WHO’s recommended ratio.
The situation is further exacerbated by the decline in the number of nurses, frequent strikes by medical personnel, and the increasing patronage of unqualified medical practitioners by the public. Dr. Innocent Orji, president of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), warns of an impending total collapse of the healthcare system if the current trends continue.
While some measures have been proposed, such as mandating newly inducted doctors to practice in Nigeria for a minimum period before obtaining a license, critics argue that more needs to be done. They call for political will from the government, upgrading existing facilities, and introducing competitive benefits to retain medical talent.
The tragic loss of a young doctor like Diaso serves as a stark reminder of the urgent reforms needed in Nigeria’s healthcare sector. As the nation grapples with this crisis, the hope is that meaningful change will emerge, ensuring that no more lives are lost due to systemic negligence.