ENUGU, Nigeria (VOICE OF NAIJA)- The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says the proposed House of Representatives’ bill for a compulsory five-year post graduation practice for medical and dental graduates in the country is in order.
The amendment bill: “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004,” is sponsored by Rep Ganiyu Johnson.
Parts of it reads: “It is to mandate any Nigeria-trained Medical or Dental Practitioner to Practice in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted full licence by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).
“It is to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.2130).”
The bill passed for second reading on April 6, amidst controversies from quarters who are arguing about the proposed bill’s propensity to impinge on the rights of medical and dental graduates.
Dr. Ehanire, however, insists that the intention of the bill is good because it is talking about curbing brain drain of doctors.
“If I can read the mind of Johnson properly, he wants to be able to keep those who have studied here a bit longer for some time before they can be free to go.
“If you look at the fact that the fees we pay at our universities, definitely they do not make up for the cost of training.
“If you want to know what it costs to train a doctor, go to a private university and know what they pay for school fees.
“That is a benchmark of what it costs but in our public universities, we don’t pay anything near that.
“So, actually, it means that it is subsidised with taxpayers money because if the government allows you to get training for about one-tenth or one-twentieth of the cost of the private university, then it means it is subsidised.
“Therefore, I’m sure Ganiyu was thinking about those in that category who should also give back to the country, having received a classy education that is respected outside.
“This is because even the cost of training here is very small compared to school fees paid in foreign countries to become a doctor. I think this is the angle the representative was looking at the issue from,” it added.
Mr. Ehanire added that it may not necessarily have to be by law because the moral understanding is also clear if one has received quality education and then gives back to the sponsor.
“So, I think maybe the same moral issue people have to look at is whether the bill goes through or not, but this remains a moral issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, some diaspora medical associations also added their voices to the issue.
In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, they said that the bill, which purportedly seeks a way to address the adverse effects of brain drain, may not be the most effective intervention to resolve the situation.
The letter was titled: “Re: A Position Statement From Diaspora Medical Associations- Bill Seeking to Restrict Newly Qualified Medical Doctors and Dentists from Leaving Nigeria.”
The letter was signed by Dr Emeka Ugwu, the President, Nigerian Doctors’ Forum, South Africa, Dr Chinyere Anyaogu, the President, Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, and Dr Chris Agbo, the President, Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain.
Dr Nnamdi Ndubuka, the President, Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists and Dr Al Amin Dahiru, the President, Nigerian Medical Association-Germany, also signed the letter.
According to the letter, the bill will be counterproductive and will not achieve its intended goal.
It stated that: “we recognise the problems posed by the exodus of Nigerian medical professionals from our health system, including, but not limited to decreased access to healthcare services and lack of quality of care.
“Care delivery deserts the inability to adequately enact healthcare and public health policy due to lack of manpower and leadership resources.
“The medical or dental practitioner is the glue that keeps the team functional and the leading force for an effective healthcare delivery system.”
The group also said that diaspora healthcare workers would be willing to return to Nigeria if an enabling environment exists, reversing the trend and helping to salvage the nation’s healthcare system.
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 licence.
The motion’s sponsor, Ganiyu Johnson, (APC/Lagos) said the move was to check the mass exodus of medical professionals from the country.