West African surgeons urge govt action to stop brain drain

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By Gabriel Olawale &  Gloria Orogun

The West African College of Surgeons, WACS, has urged the Federal Government of Nigeria and other West African countries to commit appropriate resources towards halting brain drain in the field of medical services.

The College pointed out that appropriating adequate funds to the health sector and creation of enabling environment will go a long way in preventing healthcare providers in the region from searching for greener pasture in other parts of the world.

Speaking at the commissioning of the WACS permanent secretariat in Lagos last week, President of the College, Professor Akinyinka Omigbodun, said brain drain is inevitable but government should halt the trend by designing programmes that will encourage healthcare providers to stay back.

Omigbodun explained that the reasons for brain drain are multifactorial in which some are due to the workplace environment, “Every trained professional will want to perform at highest level of competency and if they don’t  find the facilities to express their skills they become frustrated. In addition, remuneration has always been a challenge and that causes discouragement to the extent of seeking more attractive offers outside the country.”

“Prior to our College’s existence, surgeons were trained in other parts of the world, and many of them never came back to the country. But those who trained locally are more likely to stay back because the training is done when their family is just growing up and they get settled here, so there is less incentive for them to move away.”

Omigbodun hinted that as a college they recognised these challenges and in partnership with government across Africa region they have rolled out programme that will assist in retaining specialists not only in urban but also in the rural areas.

“Our three years membership programme involves a compulsory period that you have to spend in a rural area before you can be certified to practice but not recognized as a consultant.”

The Secretary-General of the College, Dr. Olutola Olatosi however called on government to strenghten its international collaboration with bodies that support training, “Government also needs to ease the process of importing training materials. Simulation is very important but these are very expensive equipment and in a situation whereby  training institutions want to bring in equipment and  a huge  duty is imposed making things difficult.”

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