Dear Femi Gbajabiamila and Ganiyu Johnson
I am writing this to you with a deep sense of disappointment as it relates to your bill to coerce medical doctors to work in Nigeria without proper remuneration. I want to believe that you actually mean well for Nigeria but simply do not know the right way to go about retaining our doctors.
I want to use this medium to explain the reasons why the solution you have proposed is not democratic.
Firstly, respected honourable, there is nowhere in the world where doctors remain on a provisional licence for five years. Not having a full licence means that doctors cannot treat people without appropriate supervision. It means they must have a senior doctor around to supervise them in everything they do.
Nigeria does not have the capacity to train and supervise house doctors for five years. They need to finish their horsemanship in one year so that other medical students can take their place in teaching hospitals. Without a full licence, doctors cannot go for NYSC.
Secondly, you justified your bill by saying that medical doctors had their education subsidized by the government. While this may be true for those who attended public universities, may I also inform you, sir, that lawyers, accountants, educationists, administrators, among others, had their education subsidised by the government. So why are you picking on doctors for enslavement? This is discrimination and it is against our constitution.
Respected honourables, you may also wish to note that the UK and Canada spend over 10 times what Nigeria spends yearly subsidising medical education yet, none of them has resorted to forced labour to retain its doctors.
The United Kingdom for instance loses more doctors to Australia, New Zealand and Canada yearly than Nigeria does.
Thirdly, as you have clearly stated, the purpose of your bill is to stop doctors from seeking jobs elsewhere. You have clearly admitted that you are trying to force them to work in Nigeria. This is forced labour, which is against international labour laws.
Having outlined the problems with your bill, may I make a few suggestions going forward.
- May I suggest that you initiate a bill to make car loans and government mortgages for doctors once they graduate to be repaid in five years. This will indirectly encourage many doctors to stay as they will look forward to owning a house and car in five years.
- Kindly initiate a bill to stop the bullying of junior doctors by senior doctors during housemanship and or residency training. This bullying is one of the major reasons doctors are not entering into residency training and residency training is one good way to ensure doctors remain behind in Nigeria. This, in addition to incentivizing residency training, will encourage more junior doctors to stay.
Initiate a bill prohibiting politicians from seeking treatment abroad while in office. This will encourage your ‘politician’ colleagues to develop our hospitals.
May I also suggest that you initiate a bill that will ensure that even the junior doctors earn the same salary and allowances as a member of the Federal House of Representatives. This will encourage them to stay just as that pay encourages politicians to stay in office.
If doctors are important enough to be stopped from leaving the country through emergency (illegal) legislation, then they are very important and perhaps more important than legislators.
- Finally, if you could initiate a bill to provide at least two policemen to protect each medical doctor from being kidnapped or robbed as is done for politicians, I can assure you that many doctors will not only remain in Nigeria, those who have left will start returning.
Respected honourable, I hope you find these suggestions useful.
Tive Egbonoje sent this from Abuja