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How poor pay, stagnation send medical doctors packing from Niger

Medical doctors working with Niger State Government hospitals are threatening to leave the state to seek greener pastures over alleged abnormal promotions, victimisation and lack…

Medical doctors working with Niger State Government hospitals are threatening to leave the state to seek greener pastures over alleged abnormal promotions, victimisation and lack of implementation of a new salary structure by the state government.

Findings by Daily Trust revealed that while some have been promoted without payment of their promotion benefits for years, including payment of arrears, many others have remained stagnant for ages.

The situation worsened recently when the newly recruited doctors were placed on the CONMESS (Consolidated Medical Salary Structure) 3, the new entry level approved by the federal government for doctors across the country with their benefits immediately paid.

Daily Trust reports no fewer than 39 doctors and other health workers were reported to have left the state between 2021 and 2023 due to poor working conditions and remuneration.

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Findings by Daily Trust revealed that among those who have resigned from their appointments was Dr Abdullahi Muhammad Koroka who was said to be the only Consultant Endocrinologist and diabetician in the state. He was said to have resigned when he was denied promotion.

  Also, Dr Salihu Muhammad, the only consultant urologist, has resigned from the IBB Specialist Hospital due to similar issues.

Daily Trust gathered that while the state has not been able to replace those who have left over the years, more are warming up to resign. Sources told our correspondent that long after their resignation, the management of the hospital had continued to plead for their services at a higher cost due to a dearth of manpower.

Some of the aggrieved doctors told our correspondent that the skipping and consequential adjustment have been implemented for pharmacists, nurses and other health workers, and wondered why doctors were left out.

A doctor related how he got his first promotion after spending nine years on the same position.

“Even when you get the promotion, the implementation of the benefit becomes a problem. Some have waited for one year; some two years before they start getting the financial benefits of their promotions.

The doctors said each of the 22 general hospitals in the state requires a minimum of seven doctors to function effectively.

“Sincerely speaking, there’s serious agitation in the system now. Majority of doctors are planning to leave the state for better places and they will definitely leave if adequate measures are not put in place to encourage them to stay because the workload is already telling on us and with this promotion racketeering now, it will totally discourage us,” one of them said. 

Another doctor said: “For many years now, we’ve been telling them that the reason why doctors are leaving Niger State is because of the poor pay. Some of my colleagues left because of poor pay and nobody has done anything about it. And now, you want to implement the skipping and you’re doing it for only few ones. You have forgotten about the doctors who have been with you for more than 10 years with experience.”

A staff at Jummai Babangida Maternal and Neonatal Hospital said: “I know of three doctors that have left. And the vacuum they have created in the state hospitals has been a big problem for us. We had 10 doctors before and we were even complaining of shortage of doctors. Before the new doctors were recently recruited, six others left. So, imagine how we were coping.”

Our correspondent was also told that, Dr Abdulbaqi Abdulkareem, one of the best hands in the hospital, has left for a residency programme in Sokoto and that his colleagues were not sure of his return.

One of the doctors told Daily Trust that in one month he was on call 11 times in addition to the burden of training the newly recruited young doctors. “Currently, in Jummai Babangida Maternal and Neonatal Hospital, we have five medical officers; we have five consultants, including the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Secondary and Tertiary Health.

“And because of the status of that hospital in Niger State with the number of patients received on a daily basis, even 20 doctors would be inadequate. Both the state ministry of health and management board don’t take note of the challenge this would cause. But when the heavier problem befalls the health sector, everybody would see it. By the time everybody starts leaving, or a serious crisis starts, everybody will feel it.”

Patients at some of the hospitals in Minna told our correspondent that they spent longer time at the hospitals due to a shortage of doctors.

They said many pregnant women have had complications and some have even died during childbirth due to lack of proper attention.

Yakubu Gana, whose wife died in the hospital in 2023 due to complications during delivery, called on the state government to take matters of healthcare seriously.

Mrs Aisha Ibrahim, a pregnant woman told our correspondent at Jummai Babangida Maternal and Neonatal Hospital, Minna that she had to be at the hospital by 5am on her antenatal days to be able to see a doctor. 

Niger govt must act fast – NMA 

The Chairman, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Niger State Chapter, Dr Yusuf Mohammed, has said the state government must act fast to improve the welfare of doctors in order to stop the few remaining ones from leaving.

 “This issue of remuneration for doctors is something that the government has to take seriously. Already, we are faced with brain drain; many doctors and other health workers are leaving the services of the Niger State Government for other places where they think they can get better pay. And that is making us have inadequate manpower in our health facilities in the state. And we have been talking to the government on different occasions to make sure that this is addressed. And that has to do with what we call retention policy, to make sure that the few ones that we have, we should do everything to retain them. 

“This is a problem that must be solved or it would demoralise the senior doctors and the enthusiasm to work would no longer be there.

“The entry point for doctors all over the country is CONMES 3. But in Niger State, it used to be CONMES 2, but the current governor, on assumption of office, approved the new entry point of CONMES 3 for doctors, which is very good because this will attract people to come to the employment of Niger State. But the problem now is the issue of Consequential Adjustment for those who are already in the service.

“I will tell you that there are doctors who have been in the service for the past three years but are on CONMES 2. This shows that the person who joined the service this year would now be a senior of somebody that has been in the service for the past three years,” he said.

When contacted to speak on the alleged promotion racketeering and other challenges, the Niger State Commissioner for Secondary and Tertiary Health, Dr Tukur Bello, said the decision to implement a new entry point of CONMES 3 for the newly recruited doctors was aimed at attracting more doctors to the state.

He said the recent advertisement by the state government to recruit 150 doctors was, however, not successful, as only 84 doctors applied and only 38 were qualified, adding that only 17 eventually came for the interview. He added that the state, on its own, could not produce even 100 doctors to fill the vacancies.

“The implementation of a new entry point of CONMES 3 for the newly recruited doctors in the state was not meant to victimise anybody. It was done to attract doctors to apply to work in Niger State. As I speak with you, his excellency has granted approval for the recruitment of 1,000 health workers, out of which 150 are doctors.

“Niger State cannot produce 100 doctors on its own. So, we have to look elsewhere and the best thing to do to attract people is to show them that we have a good remuneration package,’’ he said.

Bello said the governor had also given approval for the promotion of some doctors, adding that some categories of doctors needed to write promote examinations, which, he said, could only be discharged by the state civil service commission.

 

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