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Surgeons decry brain drain in health sector

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Fellows, West African College of Surgeons (WACS) in procession during the 2020 Scientific Conference and 60th anniversary in Abuja


The West African College of Surgeons (WACS) has expressed concern over increasing rate of brain drain in West Africa’s health sector, calling on the region’s governments to explore solutions.

President of the college, Dr. Serigne Gueye, told The Guardian that the ways to retain the human resources in the West African sub-region include improving on the working environment, equip the hospitals, pay good salaries and increase capacity building.He was speaking at the close of the 2020 Scientific Conference and the 60th anniversary of the college in Abuja.

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“We are training people for others, they are even waiting now. When we finish, they just to grab them and go. We should explore solutions to retain our human resources. As a result of this, I initiated middle level manpower training where we award diplomas and certificates, so that we can have people in the community trained to help solve some problems.

“But the solution is to improve the working environment for the people, put in place good equipment in the hospitals, pay good salaries and increase capacity building to retain the human resources in the West African sub-region,” he stated.

Gueye argued that well-trained and highly-motivated human capital were the key to achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the region.“At the African and West African levels, we know that human capital is key, so we should work on training good people and allowing them to work in good environments and give them good incentives that will make them say they will not go,” he added

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The medical expert observed that the college had contributed a lot to the development of human resources for West Africa in the areas of Anastasia, Dental Surgery, Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G), Ophthalmology, Otorhinolaryngology (ORL), and Radiology.

According to him, WACS is working to increase trainings and to start shifting some of the tasks to other specialists like nurses and midwives who will perform the tasks in remote places to improve the lives of our population.

He said, “We want to have training and stimulation centres in all the countries in West Africa where the college can run exams and conferences, so that the college will be closer to the fellows and to the population. “We have over 6,000 fellows, and this has led to development of healthcare in the respective countries and performed over 500 surgeries both minor and major cases.”

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Immediate past president of the college, Prof. King-David Yawe, told The Guardian that because the disease burden of surgery could not be covered by the regular treatment offered to patients, the college, 11 years ago, began surgical outreaches as a way of giving back to society.

Yawe explained that the college embarked on surgical outreach in 11 centres in Abuja, and one centre each in Nasarawa, Niger, Kebbi and Borno states, adding that WACS had attended to over 49,000 patients in the North East and performed over 9,000 free surgeries between 2017 and 2018. He noted that surgical practice in West Africa was faced with multiple challenges such as inadequate number of surgeons, few medical facilities, high number of patients and brain drain.

“We also have internal brain drain, which is something that our profession can address, that simply means that most doctors don’t want to go to the rural areas where the bulk of our population are resident.”He lamented that the global ratio of patients to a doctor was not being met by the region, as only four African countries had been able to make 15 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) available for health care services.
About 500 new surgeons were inducted into the fellowship of the college at the conference.

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Serigne GueyeWACS
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