ON the heels of the claim, recently, by the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, that Nigeria has enough doctors, the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA has identified three major strategies that the federal government needs to embrace to check the migration of Nigerian doctors and other health workers abroad.
In a chat with Vanguard, the President of the NMA, Dr Uche Ojinmah, said doctors are leaving in droves as a result of issues related to poor remuneration, insecurity, inadequate facilities and working tools which the government has refused to provide solution to.
Ojinmah said there was an urgent need for the federal government to revisit the poor remuneration in the health sector.
“From 2009 to date there has not been a proper review of salary in the health sector. This bears the fact that in 2009 when they gave us the Consolidate Medical Salary Structure. CONMESS, after the collective bargaining agreement, agreed that in 2014, it will be reviewed to bring it up to speed based on inflationary trends.
“You and I know what a dollar was in 2009 and what it is today in 2022 and you are eventually paying the same salary to the same people? All you have done is that there was minimum wage increment and we ended up getting N5, 000 increments.
“We must sit down and talk but the fact is that since 2015 Nigerian Medical Association has been writing to the government through the Ministry of Health for us to sit and review it.
Since May 2022, I came into office, we have also written to the Ministry as a new executive with no response. They read and kept quiet and pretended that by keeping quiet they have solved the problem.
“The day the NMA will do what the government understands which is by shutting down the system they will tell you that we are not patriotic. It is on record that for eight years we have been calling on them that they should come and let us sit down and discuss this matter. So remuneration is important.”
The NMA president also added that the non- availability of equipment to work with was another key factor why health workers are leaving.
“Making hospitals environment conducive is important. When you go to Teaching Hospitals outside this country you can lie down and work but when you go to our own Teaching Hospitals, you will battle your way in and battle out. Sometimes, the mosquitoes there will get you confused whether you are in the hospital or elsewhere.
“There is need for the government to make hospital environment conducive; provide offices for doctors that work there. Give us a comfortable call room and do something about security. Most of our Teaching hospitals are located on the outskirt of the cities. Give us security because people can be attacked at night and some of us who are women can be raped. We need nationwide security. Looks like people target doctors a lot, we believe if they can put things in order more doctors will stay back.“
He said some Nigerian doctors who travelled to Saudi Arabia broke down in tears after collecting their first salary and wondered why they were treated badly in their own country.
Calling for the stoppage of medical tourism by public office holders, Ojinmah said: “When you look at what the legislatures earn and they tell you that there is no money, you will marvel.
“They are looking robust and they are telling you to pray and fast. The government should live by example, earn what we are earning, and stop medical tourism instead of leaving our healthcare system rot away.