Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, has said that he was misquoted in his statement saying Nigerian doctors are free to leave the country since we have surplus.
According to The Nation, Ngige, in a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, said his comments were distorted and misrepresented.
I’m not concerned at all. I’m not worried. We have surplus (doctors). If we have a surplus, we export. I was taught Biology and Chemistry by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. They are surplus in their country. We have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It is my area, we have excess…. We have enough, more than enough, quote me.
Ngige, who has come under fire for the statement, said what he meant was that Nigeria does not have sufficient capacity to accommodate doctors seeking residency, hence they’re free to leave the country and get the necessary training.
The statement said:
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.
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 oversea 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.
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.