Lack of govt support, poor pay reasons young pharmacists migrate abroad, PCN, others say

Stakeholders have expressed worry over the increasing number of newly trained pharmacists who are constantly migrating abroad in search of greener pastures.

Pharmacy professionals in the health sector said the trend could prove disastrous if not checked.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, the Deputy Director of Pharmacy at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, Kingsley Ekwunife, said many young pharmacists seemed to prefer Canada and other first world countries.

“We are talking about some of our brightest brains here. It pains me every time I lose a pharmacist under my care even here at Igbobi [to greener pastures overseas].

“The main complaint borders more on the work environment, which they say is not conducive for pharmacist or any serious healthcare worker,” Ekwunife said.

He said that despite being drug experts and researchers, pharmacists are often denied needed government support and conducive work environment to excel.

The pharmacy director also identified poor remuneration as a key factor for the continual migration, arguing that the monthly pay of an average pharmacist abroad is equivalent to their counterpart’s one-year remuneration in Nigeria.

“Many of these newly trained pharmacists cannot bear it. They perceive a bleak future ahead, hence their decision to relocate abroad.

“There is just too much frustration in this country. People are talking about Canada, US and UK, forgetting that even African countries like South Africa offer better remuneration,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, National President, Young Pharmacists Group, Mr. Isa Muhammad, revealed that before pharmacy students graduate, the majority would have sat International English Language Testing System or saving money for it.

“I really don’t blame them. The system refused to acknowledge the plight of these young professionals, even those with years of experience. With the new UK policy, I foresee Nigeria losing a lot of its bright minds.

“Most of my colleagues from school have moved abroad and many of them wonder why some of us are still in Nigeria,” Muhammad said.

On what the remuneration looks like abroad, the YPG president said, while most young pharmacists are paid about $22 (N7,920) minimum per hour in the United States, £24.5 (N11,517) per hour in Canada and £40 (N18,802) per hour in the United Kingdom, their counterparts in Nigeria earn less than N2,000 per hour.

“The work environment in Nigeria is very toxic and not encouraging. If the Federal Government is serious about healthcare, it must learn to invest and be systematically holistic in the management of the sector.

“The health sector needs a reform that must be made enticing to young professionals,” he urged.

In an e-mailed correspondence with the Public Relations Officer, Pharmacists Council of Nigeria, Peter Illiya, he confirmed the brain drain generally ravaging the health sector, saying the pharmacy profession was not an exception.

According to him, about 80 per cent of newly trained pharmacists had left the country for US, Canada, UK, and Australia in what has been the trend in the last five years.

The PCN spokesman further pointed out that the work condition and remuneration abroad are better and also create opportunities for further education and citizenship.

Again, a Senior Special Adviser (Technical) to the Director-General, National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development, Dr. Abubakar Danraka, confirmed that in the last 15 months, no fewer than three pharmacists had resigned in his privately-owned hospital for overseas relocation.

“I think it is actually a combination of many factors, namely, better remuneration, conducive and flexible work schedule as well as professional recognition.

“For the hardworking pharmacists over there, they do multiple activities legally permitted such as teaching in postgraduate schools, while simultaneously running community pharmacy practice.

“These are some things we anticipate the new Pharmacy Council Bill will address when passed into law.”

On the consequence of the trend, the National Chairman, Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria, Dr. Chiedu Amibor, said the brain drain had further compounded the problem of inadequate number of pharmacists in Nigerian hospitals.

He noted that in the absence of registered pharmacists who are drug experts, hospital pharmacies would end up stocking substandard and dated medicines which the National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control has been battling to eliminate.

Written by Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, published on Punch Newspapers