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Brain Drain: Nigeria to lose 500 doctors as Saudi Arabia conducts head-hunt

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Nigeria is set to lose not less than 500 medical doctors to Saudi Arabia as the Arabian nation began a recruitment to head-hunt the best hands for immediate employment in their country’s health sector on Tuesday in Abuja.

Ripples Nigeria can confirm that on the first day of the open recruitment exercise, more than 2000 Nigerian doctors turned up at a recruitment center to meet the Saudi health ministry officials who would in turn, select the best of them to work in their country.

The exercise which commenced at 7am, according to one of the doctors who was also a participant, continued way past afternoon with more doctors joining after others had done with the interview and left.

“It was a really large turn out as doctors in different field from different states tirn up for the recruitment exercise.

“A rough estimate would be more than 2000 though the Saudi health ministry’s announcement specifically said they needed 500.

“You can see this is a reflection of the reality in the Nigerian health sector. We keep losing our best brains because our government does not place a premium on health,” the doctor lamented.

Another medical doctor who also spoke to Ripples Nigeria on the condition of anonymity, lamented that President Muhamamdu Buhari seeks medical care outside the country but leaves the salaries of those providing medical care in the country unpaid for months.

“We cannot really survive where Mr President goes out of the country for medical treatment, while for the past 10 months now, most of us have not been paid, and those who are paid are paid half salaries.

”I need to take care of my family. Why is the government not taking care of the health sector? After going through rigorous training for six years, it is not worth it to come out struggling to feed your family. I have been working 48 hours at a stretch with nothing to show,” he said.

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A paediatrician who also craved anonymity, said the working environment for doctors in the country was pitiable and they had no option than to leave.

“There are more than 500 specialist doctors here wanting to leave the country and they are coming from various teaching hospitals, federal medical centers and specialists hospitals.

“So Saudi Arabia wants the best for her people, the officials come here, collect the best from Nigeria, and put them in their hospitals for their people to benefit from our expertise.

“My advice to the Nigerian government is very straightforward. Let the health system work, remunerate doctors properly, provide the required tools for them to work with, and this trend of brain drain will stop.

“Home is home, nobody will want to leave if the working condition is good. Here, we are frustrated in our workplaces, and sometimes contribute money to buy drugs for patients. The government knows what to do. Once they do the right thing, the trend will stop, ” he said.

The Saudi Ministry of Health had earlier called on doctors in Nigeria with different specialties to attend the interview for employment.

The specialties, according to the announcement are anesthesia, ICU, pediatric surgery, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, ENT, and emergency medicine.

Others are all sub-specialties of internal medicine, orthopedic surgery, radiology, and hematology.

The recruitment exercise is expected to continue in Abuja till Thursday before moving to Lagos and other parts of the country.

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