Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
National Universities Commission (NUC) yesterday decried the shortage of medical practitioners in the country, disclosing that Nigeria needs at least 300,000 additional qualified doctors to meet the standard set by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The regulatory agency made the disclosure, even as Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, affirmed in Yenagoa that the vision of his government had always been to produce the highest number of qualified personnel in the country’s medical sector.
NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, who spoke during the maiden matriculation ceremony of Bayelsa Medical University (BMU) in Yenagoa, noted that the phenomenon of shortage of medical personnel in the country had also led to what he described as ‘patient drain’ from Nigeria to other countries.
Rasheed said given the yearly convocation of just 3,000 medical students from Nigerian universities, the country currently has just 40,000 medical doctors, a far cry from what is required to cater for the huge population in the country.
“The existing medical schools in Nigeria produce about 3,000 medical doctors every year with less than 40,000 registered medical doctors practicing in Nigeria. The doctor to patient ratio in Nigeria is about one to 3,500.
“What this means is that we need about 300,000 doctors to meet the World Health Organisation’s recommended doctor/patient ratio of 1 to 600.
“It is also common knowledge that the Nigerian health sector continues to face myriads of challenges, chief among which is the brain drain syndrome occasioned by an absence of the enabling environment for medical practitioners to thrive.
“In the more recent past, the system has also witnessed a significant patient drain due to medical tourism to countries with more robust healthcare system.
“To mitigate this challenge, there is the urgent need for huge investment in health education and healthcare services by all stakeholders. It’s for this reason that the NUC, the Federal Ministry of Education and the federal government are proud to be associated with the decision by the Bayelsa State Government to establish a specialised medical university.
“This is one out of the only five such universities whose preoccupation is the production of the direly needed medical personnel and manpower,” he said.
Rasheed, who was represented by a director at the commission, Prof. Chris Maiyaki, listed the other four higher institutions as Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo in Benue State; Ondo State Medical University, Okitipupa in Ondo State; PAMO University in Port Harcourt; and Eko Medical University in Lagos.
In his remarks, Dickson said he was moved to construct the school because of the zeal to ensure that the people of Bayelsa State are exposed to the best training in medical sciences.
He urged the incoming administration in the state to sustain the vision for the good of the state and to address the medical needs of the people.
“I thought at a point to convert this into a medical university that will serve two key purposes: a hospital and also a bigger purpose of training medical personnel which the state desperately needs.
“With all the massive investments the state has made, I thought to kill two birds with one stone. This will be a fantastic teaching hospital which will also be training ground for our medical personnel. So, I combined the two into a hospital and also a university which I wasted no time in sending a bill to the members of the House of Assembly that approved it immediately.
“I have no doubt in my mind that we took the right decision for our people and our state. I don’t need to say that there is no specialised medical university in the whole country and West Africa as a whole that has the facilities that we have.
“So, I want to use this opportunity to call on the incoming government to support this great vision. It is not about one person or party interest, it is about the long term strategic interest and future of our people,” he said.
The university’s Vice chancellor, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu, in his submission, said the institution commenced with eight faculties including Faculty of Basic Medical Science.
He listed others to include the Faculties of Basic Sciences; Basic Clinical Services; Allied Health Sciences; Clinical Sciences; Dentistry; Pharmaceutical Sciences; and Biomedical Engineering/Technology.
He revealed that the university started by Bayelsa State Government in 2018 as the second medical university in the country, had obtained the NUC nod to run the eight programmes.
The vice chancellor called on the regulatory body to also grant full accreditation to other medical courses in the university, such as medicine and surgery, nursing, among others.