Concern over shortage of neurologists in Africa
A critical shortfall in neurologists in Africa must be addressed in order to meet the health needs of patients with disorders that affect the brain, nerve and spinal cord, a study says.
The study published in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences found that ten African countries including Djibouti, Eritrea, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, and South Sudan do not have a neurologist—a medical specialist who managers disorders of nerves and the nervous system.
Yahya Naji, a co-author of the study and a resident doctor at the neurology department of Morocco's University Hospital Mohamed VI, says new approaches are needed to swell the number of neurologists in Africa.
Telemedicine could be part of the solution for training African physicians as telecommunication infrastructure on the continent continues to expand, according to Naji.
"There are many solutions such as establishment [of] new centers of scientific research, seek funding from international organizations, collaboration with developed countries, increase the budget for research and medical formation," Naji tells SciDev.Net.
According to a 2021 study, the WHO African region has only a median of 0.043 neurologists per 100,000 inhabitants—well below the WHO-recommended ratio of one per 100,000.
"The low numbers of neurologists signify that access to neurological care is too difficult, so all the neurological diseases will remain undiagnosed," says Naji.
The shortfall of trained neurologists in Africa could lead to some patients seeking care from traditional healers, who may manage the disorders wrongly, putting patients' lives at risk, adds Naji, who also works at the Marrakech Medical School of the University Cadi Ayyad in Morocco.
Neurological disorders are medical conditions that affect the brain, nerve and spinal cord, and include medical problems such as stroke, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, speech and language disorders.