World Medical Association Attacks Lawmakers over Bill Restricting Doctors to Nigeria

World Medical Association Attacks Lawmakers over Bill Restricting Doctors to Nigeria

•Says it’s a blot on Green Chamber 

•Blames insecurity, low wages, inclement environment for brain drain

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

The World Medical Association (WMA) yesterday took a swipe at Nigeria’s House of Representatives, describing the proposed law to restrict the country’s medical doctors to Nigeria for five years before they are allowed to travel abroad to practice, as a blot on the hallowed chambers.

President of the group, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, who spoke on Channels Television, insisted that the bill was ill-advised, badly researched and therefore ran contrary to the constitution of Nigeria.

In addition, the WMA president characterised the proposed law as not only outlandish, but totally retrogressive, stressing that the figure of Nigerian doctors resident in the country quoted by the sponsor of the bill was bogus.

The Green Chambers had passed for second reading, a Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, that seeks to make it compulsory for graduates in medical and dental fields to render services within Nigeria for five years before being granted full licence.

The amendment, sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos is proposing that Nigerian-trained medical doctors must serve in the country for five years before they are given a full practising licence.

Johnson said it was only fair for medical practitioners, who enjoyed taxpayer subsidies on their training, to give back to the society by remaining to practice in the country for a number of years.

The lawmakers said despite the shortage of medical personnel in the country, Nigeria continues to experience a mass exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses.

A 2017 survey by the Nigerian Polling Organisation (NOI Polls) in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch, revealed that about 88 per cent of medical doctors in Nigeria were seeking work opportunities abroad at the time.

Last year, the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) said more than 100 of its members left the country within 24 months.

Similarly, in 2018, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) said at least 12 of their colleagues left Nigeria every week to practice medicine overseas.

However, Enabulele, a former President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), said the bill was not only watery but ill-conceived.

“So I think there’s also room for us to reflect and say, look, we will make use of our research abilities. Do we make use of the resources available to us so that when you come up with something within the precincts of the House of Representatives, it is serious business.

“It is what I consider a blot on the House of Representatives because inasmuch as our representatives have a right to formulate bills, but the kind of bills you formulate will tell the kind of quality, character and of course, the whole essence of that chamber,” he argued.

He added: “I think this bill, seriously speaking was ill-advised,  I mean, it was not well thought-out and clearly not well researched and we should not be talking about going to the public hearing because I wonder how the House of Representatives would carry its face at the end of the day.”

He stressed that the data released by the group pushing for the bill was incorrect, maintaining that although the organisation notes the concern of the lawmakers , it was the wrong way to go about it.

“ Because clearly it shows that from even the statistics reeled out by the House of Representatives,  they said  we have have less than 10,000 doctors in Nigeria,  clearly it flies in the face of reality. Where did they get their figures from?

“That is not to say that we did not appreciate the passion with which they tried to push it, but obviously they were offering a cure that was even going to be worse than the aim that it sought to address,” he said.

Enabulele indicated that all the issues are already well  known, pointing out that the political will to make the difference was absent.

“Clearly, the issue of brain drain is well known to us. For over two decades, we have been talking about it. So I expect that all they needed to have done at the very least is to google and see all the challenges that have led to this phenomenon,” he added.

He explained that African countries have failed to address the reasons their medical personnel were leaving the continent, stressing that not only doctors were involved, but almost all professions.

“There are push factors  pushing Nigerians away from Nigeria, not just doctors. Today, we’re talking about the whole issue of insecurity that is enough to push anybody away from Nigeria.

“There are people who are kidnapped. You pay ransom, they kidnap us and nobody assists you, even the government turns a blind eye to it. And when you are now recovered, how do you expect the physician to feel?

“Then there is the issue of uncompetitive wages.  The issue of security, the issue of violence, the issue of poor recognition of the physician…today we all know that Nigerians are living obviously under one of the worst periods ever in terms of how the economy has impacted on them including doctors , farmers and other citizens,” he noted.

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