Doctor-to-Patient Ratio in Nigeria is at 1 to 3500 – Dr. Davies Adeloye

Photograph, patients at St. Luke's Hospital in Nigeria-jfk library
A photograph of St. Luke’s Hospital in Nigeria in August 1960. Photo/JFK Library

The recent medical trip of President Muhammadu Buhari to the United Kingdom has raised a lot of questions about the health sector in Nigeria. I decided to field some questions via email to Dr. Davies Adeloye, a Senior Lecturer at Covenant University about his thoughts on the Nigerian health system. Below are his responses in part one of a two-part interview series.

Can you describe the state of healthcare in Nigeria?

The Nigerian health system is unfortunately in a pitiable state. There are six building blocks of the health system – leadership and governance, health service delivery, health financing, health workforce, access to essential medicines, and health information systems. With repeated strikes, the poor state of health facilities, poor management of common health conditions, and high rates of medical tourism the Nigerian health system obviously needs a complete overhaul of all these building blocks.

With the volume of doctors and in fact specialists that we have in Nigeria, should the President need to go seek specialized treatment from an ENT specialist in the UK?

Obviously No. However, unconfirmed reports reveal the president had Ménière’s disease, which is a chronic debilitating disease of the middle ear. It can cause vertigo, tinnitus, hearing loss, and a feeling of pressure deep inside the ear, and often affects posture and balance. There are limited audiologists and facilities in Nigeria for electrocochleography, nystagmography, etc… which are vital management options for this disease. Seeking another expert’s view, and in this case outside Nigeria, may not be unjustified.

What do we really lack on the Nigerian medical space? 

Most health facilities in Nigeria are ill-equipped. The doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria is currently estimated at 1 to 3500. In most cases, the health workers are on strike due to several months salary owed.

Can you give examples of prominent people who have been wrongly diagnosed?

For legal reasons, I would be silent on this. But there are several people in Nigeria who have been wrongly diagnosed. Lack (or poor use) of equipment and poor knowledge on current standard diagnostic guidelines have been main factors.

Why is brain drain prevalent in the health sector?

Poor welfare definitely. Health professionals are well paid in several countries outside Nigeria.

Should the health sector go on strike as often as it happens here in Nigeria?

The answer is NO. But it is also important that government seeks to create a feasible and sustainable health system framework based on “strong” leadership and governance, to address the many issues accounting for these repeated strikes.

Next Dr. Davies Adeloye reveals his thoughts on Nigeria’s most recent health bill, mortality rates, and the provision of healthcare services.