• Friday, April 19, 2024
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Outrage over Reps’ bill to halt medics brain drain

Reps to probe $11bn P&ID contract scam

Severe criticism has continued to trail the bill seeking to mandate Nigerian-trained medical and dental practitioners to practise in the country for at least five years.

Medical experts, legal practitioners and several other Nigerians say the bill is obnoxious, ill-thought out, ill-timed, and even illegal as it negates the fundamentals of human rights.

They also say that it smacks of hypocrisy as the lawmakers had in 2019 shut down a bill trying to restrain politicians from seeking medical treatment abroad.

To address brain drain, a lawmaker from Lagos, Ganiyu Johnson, sponsored a bill which has passed the second reading in the House of Representatives which seeks to amend the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Act to prevent Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioners from being granted full licences until they have worked for a minimum of five years in the country.

The President, Guild of Medical Directors, Olufemi Babalola said the bill was ill-thought out and not a workable solution to order modafinil online address the issue of brain-drain; but, government should rather focus on addressing the problems that continue to spur medical doctors to leave the country.

He decried that doctors suffer poor working conditions with miserly salary, yet legislators who earn in millions and even seek medical care outside the country want to cage them against their wish.

“It is an ill-thought out bill, You cannot force somebody to stay against his will, we are not running a totalitarian government. Medical doctors are not different form other professionals like engineers, accountants, architects or whatever. They should be free to make a choice concerning their career and life prospects.

“If the Nigerian government is not ready to remunerate them up to the standard that is obtained in the UK, US, then they cannot hold them down by force.”

According to him, “The solutions is very simple.” He added, “If you want doctors to stay here, you improve theirs salaries, working conditions, make it attractive for them to stay. If you do that, and they refused to stay, that wold be a different story. But for now, you’re paying them so poorly. A graduate medical doctor is earning maybe $250 and in the UK, you can earn 3,000 to 4,000 pounds , so why should he stay in Nigeria and be suffering, when his colleague in the UK are doing much better.

Babalola also noted that the law, even if passed into law cannot be implemented because it fails the legal test, and the factors needed for its implementation are not in place.

“I don’t see how you can mandate somebody to practice when the person did not sign a bond”, he explained.

“I don’t see it working in practice. If you pass this law, it will be challenged in the court, all the way to the Supreme Court, and I am sure that it will be defeated in the court of law. If you want to implement this law, you will have to give all medical students scholarship, and make them sign a bond to stay. Do you want to cage doctors you did not train and did not know how their parents managed to pay their school fees to be earning slave wages? No court of law can uphold that.

“If they want to do that, all doctors interested in the five-year bond should have scholarship and actually sign the bond, then they are obliged to stay. But, if you have not done that, and their parents struggle to pay their fees, who are you to say they should stay when there are other options? So, it is just a waste of time. They know what to do but they don’t want to do it,” the President further said.

For Adaobi Onyechi, a Public Health expert, the bill will not solve Nigeria’s brain drain problem because most Nigerians leaving the country are the most experienced and have over five years experience, who are even more critical to the health sector.

Onyechi pointed out that the brain drain problem is largely fuelled by multi-faceted problems facing the sector for decades and cannot be addressed with a single “obnoxious decree.”

According to her, Nigeria needs a comprehensive reform of the health https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/modafinil-provigil-online/ sector which must include best practices from what is obtained in other climes where Nigerian doctors often migrate too.

“Let us give them what they are looking for in UK, US, Canada, and the rest. I think that is a very simple solution that actually makes sense,” she said.

If government revamps the sector to address all the challenges that limit our health professionals, it could even attract best brains from across continents,” she said.

According to her, Nigeria has about 25,000 doctors against the over 360,000 doctors recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). She also stressed that the most sustainable solution was for government to deliberately increase investment and revamp the sector

BusinessDay recalls that Osagie Ehanire, the Minister of health, recently said Nigeria’s health care sector was suffering due to the exodus of the most knowledgeable and highly trained doctors, nurses and pharmacists from the country.

Ehanire, who raised the concern during the President Muhammadu Buhari Scorecard in the health sector, said that the Federal Government cannot stop the mass exodus of health professionals but is trying to remedy it by speeding up the training of young practitioners.

The Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, also reveals that Nigeria’s healthcare system is in dire strait, and is grossly underfunded with less than eight percent of the national budget apportioned to health. It added that public healthcare facilities are poorly maintained and ill-managed while several others are in various stages of dilapidation.

Apart from medical professionals who have kicked against the bill, many other Nigerians have also done so.
Emmanuel Arinze, an Abuja-based entrepreneur, said that the bill negates the tenets of fundamental human rights and should be stopped.

He described as unreasonable the move by government to cage doctors in the country with deplorable working conditions which it failed to address.

“It is against the labour laws; holding people against their will is very wrong,” he said.
“Instead of them to think of how to address the issues making them to leave and even stop our politicians from going abroad to seek medical treatment, they are trying to cage medical practitioners. Here, their security is not guaranteed, and their welfare is very poor. It is said that after God, its medical practitioners, so they are even supposed to get paid more than so many of our so-called politicians who do nothing, but these people are saving lives,” Arinze further said.
In the same vein, an Abuja-based journalist Kazeem Biriowo, said the bill will only succeed in caging Nigeria’s medical personnel because the environment for them to operate is still grossly lacking.

According to him, many hospitals especially government-owned are ill-equipped with outdated equipment and are still referred to as death traps. He said the bill can only work if the enabling environment provided in terms of good welfare, infrastructure, security, among others were available.

“Government is just putting the cart before the horse; this means that they should have put necessary things in place to make the healthcare sector better. Every time resident doctors go on strike or threaten to do so due to welfare. What has government done to address the issue? Nothing!” The bill is ill-timed and anti-people,” he cried.

A final year medical student in Abuja who, spoke on condition of anonymity, said Nigeria was simply unattractive and she did not intend to practise in the country. She also said that she would only consider practising in Nigeria if government should improve the condition significantly.

“I love this country, but I cannot suffer the tedious process in medical school for at least six years and maybe eight years if you include strike to face another struggle. Its absolute no for me. Government should stop that bill now,” she said.

Some other Nigerians who spoke to BusinessDay recalled the bill in 2019 that sought to stop lawmakers from assessing healthcare abroad. Lawmakers described it as an infringement on their fundamental human rights.

In May 2019, Sergius Ose Ogun, a member of the House, sponsored a bill seeking to prevent public officials from seeking medical treatment abroad.

The bill sought to amend section 46 of the National Health Act thus: “(1) A public officer of the Federal Government shall not embark on medical trip abroad without approval; or be sponsored for medical check-up, investigation; or treatment abroad at public expenses except in exceptional cases on the recommendation and referral by the medical board and which recommendation or referral shall be duly approved by the Minister or Commissioner as the case may be; or embark on medical trip abroad unless he satisfactorily proves to the office where the officer is working, that such ailment cannot be treated in Nigeria.”

Lawmakers had kicked against the bill, dubbing it an attempt to encroach on their fundamental human rights.

Mohammed Wase from Plateau State said the green chamber should “throw away” the bill.

Today, they are stepping on some other citizens’ fundamental human rights.