Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The National Universities Commission (NUC) Wednesday 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 has always been to produce the highest number of qualified personnel in the country’s medical sector.
The Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, who spoke during the maiden matriculation ceremony of the Bayelsa Medical University (BMU), Yenagoa, noted that the phenomenon of shortage of medical personnel in the country has also led to what he described as ‘patient drain’  from Nigeria to other countries.
Rasheed said that given the yearly convocation of just 3,000 medical students from Nigerian universities, Nigeria 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 practising 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, 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,” said Rasheed, who was represented by Prof. Chris Maiyaki, a director at the Commission.
He listed the other four as Federal University of Health Sciences, Otukpo, Benue State; Ondo State Medical University, Okitipupa, Ondo State; PAMO university, Port Harcourt and Eko Medical University, Lagos.
In his remarks, Dickson said that he was moved to construct the school because of the zeal to ensure that the people of Bayelsa 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.
He added: “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 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 my executive council which 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.”
The Vice-Chancellor of the school, Prof Ebitimitula Etebu, in his comments, said that 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 the Bayelsa State government in 2018 as the second medical university in the country, had obtained the NUC nod to run the eight programmes.
Etebu called on the regulatory body to also grant full accreditation to other medical courses in the university, such as Medicine, Surgery and Nursing, among others.