NMA, MDCAN Strikes Ngige For Saying Nigeria Has More Than Enough Doctors
The Nigerian Medical Association, the National Association of Resident Doctors, the Socio-Economic Right and Accountability Project and human rights groups on Wednesday took a swipe at the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, over his comment that the country had enough medical doctors.
Dr. Chris Ngige had on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday, said doctors who felt they wanted to relocate in search of greener pastures were free to do so as the nation had enough medical personnel.
Ngige had while responding to a question on brain drain and the deliberate recruitment of Nigerian doctors by foreign embassies in Nigeria, said there was nothing wrong with doctors leaving the country as they would continue to send foreign exchange home which would, in turn, grow the economy.
He said, “No, I am not worried (about doctors leaving the country). We have a surplus. If you have a surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days.
“Who says we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them traveling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send it back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.”
When asked if he was sure of what he was saying, the minister said it was good for doctors to travel out as they would receive training from abroad and open up medical centers in Nigeria.
“Will you call that brain drain? I know a couple of them who practice abroad but set up medical centers back home. They have scanners and magnetic resonance imaging, which even the government cannot maintain. So, I don’t see any loss,” he said.
When asked if brain drain was not hurting the health sector, he said, “Brain drain will only be inimical when for instance neurosurgeons travel and we don’t have neurosurgeons here.”
But in separate interviews with our correspondents, the NMA president, Dr. Francis Faduyile and his NARD counterpart, Dr. Segun Olaopa, said Ngige did not have the knowledge of the World Health Organisation’s recommendation on doctor-patient ratio.
Nigeria not bothered about citizens’ health – NMA
The NMA president said Nigeria had no enough doctors, stressing the need to ensure the country retained its medical personnel.
Faduyile said Nigeria fell behind in the WHO’s doctor/patient ratio recommendation while questioning the minister’s understanding of the health sector challenges.
He said, “That is an unfortunate statement which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice. The WHO stated that for optimal health care to be achieved, we need the doctor/patient ratio of one to 600. In Nigeria, we have 40,000 doctors taking care of 200 million people.
“It is unfortunate; we do not have enough doctors. Maybe he is looking at the monetary part but there is the opportunity cost. He says it will generate revenue when the doctors bring back the money. But that is coming at the expense of our people that are dying daily because of the lack of facilities in the health sector to take care of simple ailments and complex ones like cancer.
“Nigeria has a maternal mortality rate that is about the highest in the world. To correct it, we need more health professionals around. Now that Ngige says they are free to go, it means that he missed the point. Africa’s head of states met in Abuja and declared that at least 15 percent of annual budgets should go to the health sector. Nigeria has never gone beyond six percent since 2001. The current budget gives about 3.8 percent to health. You can see that Nigeria has no interest in taking care of its citizens.”
Some states owing doctors 10 months’ salaries, says NMA President
The NMA president alleged that in some states, doctors had not been paid for 10 months while in others; the total number of doctors employed was less than 40.
He added, “There are states that have not employed doctors. We have states that have fewer than 50 doctors in their health sector and some have not paid doctors for 10 months.
There is a state where over 80 doctors resigned because the state did not take care of their welfare.
“The populace is docile and that is why someone will come out and say we have more than enough doctors. It will take Nigeria 15 years to have an adequate number of doctors and that is if none of them leaves the country.”
Faduyile stated that Nigeria had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world.
“We have one of the highest maternal mortality rates. Our life expectancy is one of the lowest among the comity of nations. These are the direct effect of poor health care management,” he stated.
Ngige is ignorant, says NARD
The NARD president, Olaopa, said Ngige spoke like a politician, adding that the nation would continue to lose doctors with advanced medical training.
He said, “Nigeria continues to lose doctors to other countries across all levels but the worst hit is those with advanced medical training who are required to use the national investment and training for the betterment of the populace.
“The minister is totally ignorant of the health system situation in Nigeria and it is unfortunate that someone who should know would make such a spurious pronouncement on national television. He spoke as a politician and nothing more. And we strongly doubt he represents the views of his paymasters.”
Olaopa said Ngige’s statement was uncalled for.
“It is sad that somebody of his caliber will try to go to that extent of covering up a large degree of the incompetence of not doing proper diligence. It shows that he does not even have the number of registered medical doctors practicing in Nigeria.
Ngige is wrong, we don’t have enough doctors – MDCAN
Also, the National President, Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Prof Ngim Ngim, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Ngige was wrong about Nigeria having enough doctors.
He said, “I don’t know what must have informed the minister’s opinion, but the doctor: patient ratio in Nigeria is still far below the WHO recommendation. In as much as anybody has the right to travel out of the country, the government must put measures in place to give enough medical manpower in the country to take care of the population.
“Brain drain in the health sector is a big problem in the country; Nigeria does not have enough doctors, all efforts must, therefore, be made to keep the ones that are still in the country.”