Minister of Labour and Employment Sen. Chris Ngige has clarified his position on the issue of Nigerian medical doctors migrating to other countries, leading to brain drain in the nation’s medical profession.
Ngige made this known in a statement signed by Mr Nwachukwu Obidiwe, his Special Assistant on Media, in Abuja last week, following backlash from his statement on a television programme in which he reportedly said that doctors’ leaving the country in large numbers were not an issue to the country. He described the controversies that trailed the comment as “unnecessary, calling for deeper understanding of the issue in question.”
“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,” he stated.
Ngige said apart from Nigeria’s non-compliance with the World Health Organization’s ratio of one doctor to 600 patients in which he was misquoted, every other thing he said in the interview was reality, useful and constructive facts which every Nigerian that watched the full interview will hardly dispute.
He said though the Federal Government has recorded remarkable, steady improvement in the healthcare system, Nigeria is yet to get to where it should be, noting that at present, the country does not have enough healthcare facilities to accommodate all the doctors seeking to do residency training in teaching hospitals, federal medical centres and state and private medical centres in the country.
The statement also said only about 20 per cent of yearly applicants were being absorbed while the remaining tried elsewhere including seeking training abroad to sharpen their skills and become specialists.
“It is therefore a question of turning your handicap to an advantage. As governor of Anambra State, I developed a special medical incentive package to draw doctors to the rural communities by establishing the Rural Doctors Programme where officers posted to the rural health facilities got additional 25% of their basic salary as special allowance.
“While the Federal Government, indeed government at all levels strive to meet up with the World Health ratio of one doctor to 500, we appeal to the Nigerian Medical Association to prevail on its members to serve in the rural areas.
“An on-going programme by the Federal Government will soon revive and revitalize the basic health centres in all the wards across the federation,” the statement added.