Senator Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, has taken back his words in his claims that there are surplus medical doctors in the country.
If you recall, On Wednesday, Chris Ngige had said on Channels Television that he was indifferent about Nigerian doctors to migrating other countries, seeing the said doctors as only sources of foreign exchange.
In his words : “No, I am not worried [about doctors leaving the country]. We have surplus.
“If you have surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. There are surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. In my area, we have excess.
“Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.”
As a result of this statement, a lot of Nigerians from different sectors in Nigeria fired at him, including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and National Association of Resident Doctors (ARD).
Adedayo Faduyile, NMA President, has described Ngige’s statement as: “That is an unfortunate statement which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice.”
But on Thursday, in a statement released by his media aid, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, the Minister has claimed that his words had been misunderstood and misquoted.
He mentioned and that what he actually meant that there are less opportunities and facilities for the number of available medical doctors in the country, making it difficult for them to thrive.
“I speak from the vintage position of being a medical doctor and member, Nigerian Medical Association, since June 1979 and enriched by my vast knowledge on health administration, having retired as a Deputy Director, Medical Services and Training from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1998, member of Vision 2010 Committee on Health as well as senior member, Senate Committee on Health 2011-2015.
“Therefore, the truth no matter how it hurts, must be told and reality, boldly faced. I invite opinion moulders especially those who have spoken or written on this issue to watch the full clip of my interview with the channels.
“And it is for this reason that I admitted having a little cause to worry about brain drain among medical doctors. The fact is that while the Federal Government has recorded a remarkably steady improvement in our healthcare system, Nigeria is yet to get there.
“We do not at present have enough health facilities to accommodate all the doctors seeking to do tertiary specialist training (residency) in the Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and few accredited state and private specialist centres in the country where roughly 20% of the yearly applicants are absorbed while the remaining 80%, try their luck elsewhere.”
Chris Ngige also noted that while the Nigerian doctors are leavingthe chores of the country to seek better opportunities abroad, it can also be a blessing in disguise for the country, as they can always come back home to make the country better.
“What the Minister meant therefore is that these professionals have the right to seek for training abroad to sharpen their skills, become specialists and later turn this problem to a national advantage when they repatriate their legitimate earnings and later return to the country.
“Even where some of these doctors are bonded to their overseas training institutions, examples abound on the large number of them who have successfully returned to settle and establish specialist centres across the country. It is therefore a question of turning your handicap to an advantage.”
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The Minister also mentioned that the Federal Government is doing all it can to assist young medical professionals by providing training opportunities for them.
“Luckly, the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Employment is developing a federal assisted programme for these young doctors and other allied health professionals such as pharmacists, physiotherapists in a move to broaden training opportunities.
“Even the National Youth Service Corps doctors, all, today seek postings to the cities as against what obtained some decades ago. Besides, doctors who did not get the few vacancies in the tertiary centres especially those owned by the Federal Government find it difficult to work in the rural hospitals.”