He said Nigeria's real problem in the health sector is an uneven distribution of practicing doctors in the urban and rural areas.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, is currently facing a backlash on social media after he fumbled a question on why it is hard for doctors in Nigeria to get residency training to become specialists in the country.
While answering questions from journalists in a video that has been circulating on social media, the minister was asked why Nigerian doctors have to wait for a long time to get residency training.
In response, the minister casually said that all doctors cannot become specialists and can try their hands at other things like farming or politics. While still failing to answer to question, he said his tailor makes the best gowns despite being a doctor.
He said, "It might sound selfish, but we can't all be specialists. We can't. Some will be farmers, some will be politicians.
"The man who sews my gown is a doctor. He makes the best gown. And some will be specialists, some will be GPs, some will be farmers."
The migration of Nigerian doctors out of the country has been alarming in recent times with many expressing worry that there are not enough specialists in the country, making the minister's comments insensitive to many.
No shortage of doctors in Nigeria – Adewole
While speaking during the opening ceremony of the 38th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) on Friday, September 21, 2018, the minister said there is no serious shortage of doctors in Nigeria, as popularly believed.
He said Nigeria has the ratio of one doctor to 4,088 patients, a ratio he says is not bad when compared to other African countries.
"The data obtained from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria as of May 30, revealed that 88,692 doctors are registered in their books. Of these doctors, only 45,000 are currently practicing and that gives us a ratio one doctor to 4,088 persons.
"Compared to many other African countries the ratio is not bad, for example, in South African it is one (doctor) to 4,000; in Egypt it is one to 1235; in Tanzania it is 1: 14,000; in Ethiopia, it is one to 1 to 118,000, in Kenya, it is one to 16,000 and in Cameroon it is one to 40,000," he said.
He noted that what is believed to be a shortage of doctors is actually the uneven distribution of practicing doctors within the country. He said there is a huge imbalance between the distribution of doctors to the urban and rural areas.
"About 50 percent of the doctors in Nigeria can be found in Lagos and Abuja axis whereas many of the facilities in the North and rural areas have no doctors," he said.
He said the Federal Government is rightly concerned about the problems facing the health sector and has set up a special committee to work on all the issues.