Authorities in Kano state, in Nigeria’s northwestern region, are attempting to remove an unknown number of unlicensed doctors and pharmacists, raising fears that impostors have infiltrated the country’s health system.
An investigation is currently underway to determine the exact number of unlicensed persons in Kano State. The healers allegedly operate out of unregistered private clinics where they often prescribe drugs and even see patients.
Fatima Nuhu Umar, an unlicensed doctor who was recently arrested and hastily exposed to the media, admitted to treating patients and pleaded for mercy.
“It is true that I am not a trained health professional,” said Umar. “I administer drops, blood, medicines and injections to patients. I ask for mercy.”
According to local news outlet The Daily Post, as many as 130 hospitals and pharmacies, which in Nigeria includes all health facilities such as clinics, were run by unlicensed doctors. In one case, an unqualified person allegedly transfused HIV-infected blood while trying to treat a malaria patient.
The lack of healthcare facilities in rural Nigeria often leaves patients with few options, making them more likely to inadvertently seek treatment at unlicensed clinics.
Nigeria suffers ‘brain drain’ of doctors
In recent years, an increasing number of Nigerian doctors and nurses have left the country in search of better pay and conditions in Europe and North America. According to the Nigerian Resident Doctors Association (NARD), six out of ten doctors in Nigeria plan to move to greener pastures.
Experts say the exodus is being driven by a lack of funds and infrastructure, a shortage of child doctors and poor logistics.
Yarma Ahmad Adamu, a senior lecturer at Gombe State University’s College of Medical Sciences, believes the resulting vacuum has made it easier for unscrupulous people to set up unlicensed clinics and make quick bucks.
“Many people use this (Dr.) title that they didn’t earn through training and do a lot of terrible activities that result in deaths,” he told DW.
“The government is only looking for the revenue, but it is not being monitored.”
Adamu stressed that the federal government urgently needs to step up inspections at hospitals and other medical facilities.
“Before a license is issued for any hospital, the authorities must verify the academic qualifications of the doctors,” he said.
According to the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), only 24,000 licensed doctors are currently available in Nigeria. However, the country needs at least 363,000 doctors to cover its entire population, reported Premium Times, one of Nigeria’s leading online media outlets.
Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa by a wide margin, with approximately 220 million people. NMA says the country requires a pool of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives for every 10,000 people to provide essential health services, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Despair hangs high
As more arrests of unlicensed doctors and nurses make headlines in Nigeria, many have lost confidence in the already struggling health sector, particularly in northern Nigeria, where the Boko Haram insurgency has wreaked since 2009, killing thousands, including doctors, and displacing more than 3 million.
Fadila Kabiru, a resident of Maiduguri in northern Nigeria, said the problem of unlicensed clinics has created anxiety among residents about where to seek medical care and whether or not to trust local doctors.
“Seriously, we don’t have professional doctors these days,” he told DW.
“All of our doctors are doctors by name, but not by qualification. Therefore, I am afraid to see a doctor in any hospital or clinic.”
In an attempt to address the situation, Isah Isiyaku, director of operations for the Private Health Institutions Management Agency (PHIMA) in Kano state, said a new law is being prepared that would allow the state prosecutor to take on cases involving doctors. Unlicensed. .
“There will be a bill called the ‘Anti-quackery Bill,'” he told DW. “It will help us arrest and prosecute these people quickly.”
Al-Amin Muhammad contributed to this report
Edited by: Ineke Mulas