Brain drain: 500 employees departed National Hospital in two years – CMD

Prof. Mahmud Raji, Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, Abuja (NHA), has revealed that over 500 staff members had left the hospital in quest of greener pastures in the previous two years.

Raji told media in Abuja on Sunday that the majority of them moved abroad in quest of better working conditions.

“The way they leave is really damaging to all hospital administrators.

“The most terrible and concerning aspect of it is how much money the Nigerian government has put in each of these persons, whether they are doctors, nurses, chemists, physiotherapists, or whoever else quits.

He stated that treating two or three files of young people seeking to depart made brain drain syndrome a virtually daily activity.

“Sometimes, not only young people, but also adults who have advanced through the ranks and have a wealth of expertise to share with others. So, Nigeria is losing a lot, and it is sad.

“We have lost a number of senior doctors, particularly middle cadre doctors and those who are relatively young.

“Nurses have also departed the middle and younger cadres. Some of our medical engineers are hotcakes outside and have already left.

“I must tell you, Nigeria trains people so much, and Nigerian graduates and personnel are in high demand all over the world,” he said.

When asked about the reasons for their departure, he stated that salary and job satisfaction had always come first.

“For example, if a doctor or a nurse comes here, he or she needs to see a quiet, attractive setting, as well as a really comfortable place to rest during their one-hour break.

“At the very least, you can eat something and refill your energy before moving on to the next step of work, which is not always available in Nigerian hospitals.

“In terms of compensation, it may not be as high as you would expect elsewhere. Despite the fact that Nigeria’s purchasing power is significantly superior to that of other countries, our money may still buy something.

“We should also consider the unresolved issue of inter-professional rivalry, which has a negative impact on people’s psychology. People should feel at ease with the next person they work with, whether it’s a nurse, physiotherapist, or anyone else.

Raji further stated that the necessary equipment for work was not available, and when this equipment is either non-existent or old, healthcare practitioners believe that more should have been done.

He did, however, say that previous governments attempted to take a strong stand on health issues.

He also mentioned that the current government has made significant efforts to reform the health-care system.

“From what we can all see, the new administration has revived our hope that in the coming months, if not years, we will be able to see a change or shift in this mindset among Nigerian health professionals willing to leave the nation.

“Hopefully, we should be able to entice them to return while retaining the ones who are already here.”

He did, however, say that NHA has used a variety of tactics to try to retain the healthcare personnel that worked there.

“I may not be able to adjust their salary because it is under the control of the government, but we try to appease them because remuneration is usually the first thing people complain about.

“Secondly, in terms of welfare, we have made every effort to alleviate some of their suffering.

“We have established cooperatives to aid employees, either financially or otherwise, in obtaining mortgages for their homes and other necessities.

“On our own, we occasionally invite these mortgage companies to come and assist our employees. We were able to obtain some buses to alleviate the tension that employees experience when travelling from work to home and vice versa.

“We are also attempting to make the environment in which they work more relaxing and friendly to them. This would require a lot of resources, but with what we have, we can do it gradually.”

In terms of training, he stated that because training outside of the country might be costly, the hospital arranges local training and, where possible, helps them in travelling for training within the country and occasionally outside of the country when funds allow.

The CMD stated that the hospital was also attempting to repair equipment that was not functioning properly or at all.

“Through financial and intervention avenues, we are also attempting to bring in additional new equipment that will keep people pleased while they work.

“When you visit our laboratories today, you will see that they are not what they used to be.

“We have so many automated machines; with these machines, all you have to do is put in samples and the thing runs by itself, as opposed to before, when a person had to run this, then that. So now they have it a little easier.

“They also believe that we are working where we would have liked to work. So we are updating our laboratories, or, to a significant extent, we feel comfortable referring to them as automated laboratories.

“That’s what we’re trying to do, at least in small ways, to improve people’s lives, and the good news is that some of them enjoy it.

“However hard you try, some people are already determined to leave,” he remarked.

Regarding inter-professional rivalry in the healthcare field, he stated that, while it exists at other institutions, it has been very harmonious at NHA.

He stated that due to the healthy connection, there have been few local strikes at NHA in recent years.

“However, the personnel is not isolated; they interact with other individuals outside.

“So, you’d hear such concerns every now and again, but some of these difficulties are very common in other places, and they may be fairly serious.

“It sometimes interferes with the operation of some of these organisations, but we are fortunate in that we can, at the very least, control it.”

To put an end to it, or at least control it, he stated that various attempts were made to settle the issue, but when remedies were on the way, other bodies may lobby to prevent them.

He recalled that the Federal Government formed a committee a few years ago to investigate the issue, and the committee issued some recommendations.

“I’m not sure if those recommendations were fully adopted, but circumstances may have changed enough to warrant the formation of a new committee to investigate this.

“I guarantee you that with the present administration and the president’s mandate to tackle healthcare issues, as well as the ministers in charge of the ministry, people have trust in their ability to solve this situation.

“We have to look at it holistically, so that you don’t just view doctors as a group and solve their problems, but you also tackle the problems of nurses.

“Also, when you call the nurses and handle their problem, you create a problem for the radiologist or chemist, among other things.

“Based on our meetings with current ministry executives, we believe they will view it holistically, as a win-win for all aspects of healthcare.”

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