Doctors in Nigeria have rejected a plan by Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, to require physicians who were trained in the nation to work for at least nine years in the country before being allowed to migrate.
According to Best News Netwok, the number of Nigerian doctors practicing in the United Kingdom reached 8, 983 on Saturday, and is expected to reach 9,000 this week.
Ngige had earlier this week lamented the effect of brain drain on the health sector due to the country’s low cost of medical education during his ministry’s 2022 budget defense in the House of Representatives.
According to the minister, government-trained medical personnel should be required to sign a bond obligating them to serve the country for at least nine years before considering migrating to another country.
He had said, “Medical education in Nigeria is almost free. Where else in the world is it free? The Presidential Committee on Health should come with a proposal for bonding doctors, nurses, medical laboratory scientists and other health workers so that they don’t just carry their bags and walk out of their country at will when they are trained at no cost.
“In London, it is £45,000 a session for medical education in universities. If you go to Edinburgh or Oxford, you pay $80,000. If you go to the USA you pay $45,000 but if you go to the Ivy leagues, you pay $90,000 for only tuition, excluding lodging. You do it for six years. So, people in America take loans.
“We can make provisions for loans and you pay back. If the government will train you for free, we should bond you. You serve the country for nine years before you go anywhere.”
On Saturday, however, the Nigerian Medical and Dental Consultants Association and the Guild of Medical Directors criticized Ngige’s plan.
Prof. Ken Ekilo, MDCAN’s immediate past president and a member of the Association’s National Executive Council, criticized Ngige’s bond proposal in an interview.
According to Ekilo, a variety of causes contribute to the country’s apparent brain drain, and forming links will not fix the problem.
He stated, “The minister’s suggestion shows a poor appreciation of the forces at play concerning brain drain in Nigeria. The Nigerian work environment is hostile to the medical doctors and the Nigerian security situation is hostile to Nigerian citizens. Infrastructure is poor, equipment is obsolete, drugs and supplies are out of stock, and the personnel are few, overworked and underpaid.
“There is no sense of job satisfaction, professional growth or commensurate financial reward. These are the push factors, the salaries being offered by the destination countries are irresistible, in addition to perks such as paid holidays, free education for children, sponsorship for training, conferences, and workshops all within the context of a stable society with functional social amenities. These are the pull factors.
“The idea of bonding doctors alone is faulty on several fronts. First, it is not only doctors that are trained at public expense, so the bond will have to be required of anyone who has passed through the public education system in Nigeria.”
He argued that the strategy would convey the wrong message to employees, implying a government failure of ideas and a reliance on compulsion akin to countries deficient in social liberty.
The doctor stated that the strategy will encourage backdoor emigration and other unlawful forms of departure, as well as human trafficking.
“Lastly, the government cannot implement this without infringing on both the doctors’ fundamental human rights and the freedom guaranteed to citizens under the Nigerian constitution. I sympathise with the government, it is not an easy problem to solve and difficult decisions must be made,” Ekilo added.
Also, the National President of the Guild of Medical Directors, Prof. Olufemi Babalola, in a separate interview stated that the minister should not propose the idea of a bond seeing as he had said during an interview a while ago that there was no brain drain.
Babalola added, “This is not the way to curb brain drain in the country. I seem to recall that it was this same minister who said there was no brain drain some time ago. The fact that he is proposing this solution would suggest an acknowledgment on the part of the government that we do have a serious crisis on our hands.”
According to him, the average medical graduate seeks greener pastures abroad, not because they do not prefer to stay at home but because conditions are atrocious and salaries are scandalously low for the skill set they possess.
“A medical doctor in government employment in Nigeria today cannot afford to buy a new car. Not even a foreign-used car. That is the extent to which doctors have been debased in Nigeria. Let us address the issues and make the situation much more attractive and they will stay to serve their motherland. You can’t force them,” Babalola said.
The President, Association of Resident Doctors, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja chapter, Dr Azeez Ojekunle, said Ngige’s statement would increase the rate of brain drain in the country.
“We were looking forward to having a panacea for the long-standing massive brain drain, but quite unfortunate that response from such a stakeholder will only inevitably worsen the exodus in a rather geometric pattern.
“Such proportion will cause exodus in the early medical career path which currently is more among practising medical doctors and will then progress to medical students who glaringly see the deplorable state of practising environment in the health care sector.
“Even right now, final year medical students are begging to write examination to exit the country as soon as upon completion of their housemanship,” Ojekunle said.
However, the Joint Health Sector Union, which represents all non-doctors in the medical field, claimed that the new policy should not apply to its employees because only doctors receive subsidised education.
In an interview, JOHESU’s spokesperson, Olumide Akintayo, noted that only medical physicians benefit from the minister’s mentioned subsidised medical education and that the planned bond should not be a problem for them.
He said, “It is only doctors who enjoy that privilege of subsidised medical education. It is not okay for the minister to include other health workers.”
A recent spike in the number of medical doctors leaving the country has occurred.
Meanwhile, according to Best News Network, the number of Nigerian doctors in the United Kingdom has climbed to 8,983 and is anticipated to surpass 9,000 this week, based on the daily pace of four Nigerian doctors being licensed in the United Kingdom each day.
According to our sources, the UK General Medical Council has licensed at least 264 doctors in the last 53 days, an average of 4.6 Nigerian doctors every day.
According to the council’s website, Nigeria is third in terms of the number of foreign doctors working in the UK, trailing only India and Pakistan, which have 30,388 and 15, 962 doctors, respectively.
The numbers also revealed that the number of Nigerian-trained doctors in the UK increased by 932 between November 13, 2020, and November 12, 2021.