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Reps propose five-year service compulsory for medical workers

4 min read

The House of Representatives has passed for second reading, a Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022, which seeks to make it compulsory for graduates in medical and dental fields to render services within Nigeria for five years before being granted full license.

Sponsor of the motion, Ganiyu Johnson (APC/Lagos) said the move was to check the mass exodus of medical professionals from the country.

The legislation is titled. ‘A Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to Mandate Any Nigeria Trained Medical or Dental Practitioner to Practice in Nigeria for a Minimum of Five Years Before Granted a Full License by the Council in Order to Make Quality Health Services Available to Nigeria; and for Related Matters.’

Nigeria has in recent times, especially after the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, witnessed the mass migration of its professionals to developed countries, a development that is now known in local parlance as ‘Japa Syndrome.’

Leading the debate on the bill, Johnson noted that the amendment was to mandate any Nigerian-trained medical or dental practitioner to practise in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted a full license by the council.

According to him, this was to make quality health services available to Nigerians considering the growing trend of the Nigerian population and the current emigration rate of Nigeria-trained medical and dental practitioners abroad.

Johnson said, “Nigeria currently has only 24,000 licensed medical doctors available in the country, less than 10 per cent of the number needed to meet the World Health Organisation recommendation.

“According to the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Uche Rowland, Nigeria requires a mix of 23 doctors, nurses and midwives per 10,000 population to deliver essential health services, according to the WHO. He however stated that a large number of Nigerian doctors emigrated to seek greener pastures in developed countries, noting that 5,600 of them have migrated to the United Kingdom in the last eight years.

“Now, only one doctor is available to treat 30,000 patients in some Southern states, while in the North, it is one doctor to 45,000 patients.”

The lawmaker noted that the tuition fee for Medicine in the UK was between £35,750 and £66,500 per annum and the duration of the course is four years. He said in the United States, according to the National Centre for Education Statistics, the average cost of studying Medicine ranges between $82,000 and $104,000, aside from miscellaneous expenses which include feeding, accommodation, etc.

The lawmaker added that in Canada, the tuition fee for Medicine ranges from 52,000 CAD to 169,000 CAD.

“But contrary to all these bogus Medicine tuitions in the aforementioned foreign countries, in Nigeria, the cost of Medicine in public institutions ranges from N40,000 to 150,000. Therefore, you will all agree with me that medical and dental education in Nigeria is seriously subsidised,” he stated.

Johnson stressed, “Despite this subsidy in medical and dental’s education, Nigeria still suffers emigration of trained medical doctors and dentists into the hands of these foreign countries, which an average Nigerian can hardly afford for medical training. The favourite destinations of migrating Nigerian medical staff are Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

Quoting various reports, the lawmaker said the number of Nigerian-trained doctors who left for the UK was the third highest in the world and highest in Africa. According to him, the mass relocation of trained doctors has enormous implications for the healthcare sector, which he decried was already understaffed.

He stated, “With the latest mass relocation of trained doctors in Nigeria to the UK, the doctors patient ratio might become worse, leading to an overstretch of the already limited medical doctors workforce. This might push even more doctors to join their colleagues in a more favourable working environment, resulting in further losses to Nigeria.

“It has also been observed that foreign embassies in Nigeria, particularly those of Britain, the United States, and Saudi Arabia receive on a weekly basis 20 to 25 verification requests from Nigerian doctors wishing to migrate abroad. This translates into about 1,196 applications a year, while Nigerian people whose resources are being used to subsidise the medical and dental education in Nigeria to train doctors and dentists still suffer from poor health services due to the migration of our doctors and dentists. This is a clear cheat on the Nigerian people.

“In view of the foregoing, this bill, if considered and passed by this Green Chamber, will not only bring about the necessary social justice to the Nigerian people but also improve the health services available to Nigerians, because Nigerians will be able to enjoy the service of the medical doctors and dentists who were able to get trained through their resources, at least for the period of five years here proposed before migrating abroad.”

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