•There is an urgent need to check the exodus of doctors, others from the country

In March, medical doctors in the Kogi State Public Service under the aegis of the state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), embarked on yet another round of strike. Their demands specifically included the payment of the balance of 40% salary arrears owed doctors from August to December, 2017, payment of 100% of doctors’ salaries and allowances for January and February, 2018 as well as the implementation of the revised Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) by the state government.

Despite having since called off the strike, apparently relying on the promise that their plight would be alleviated, it is sad that doctors in the state are still in a quandary.

Addressing a world press conference in Lokoja, the state capital, last week, the Kogi State chairman of NMA, Dr. Kabiru Zubair, lamented that “the situation of doctors is very pathetic in Kogi civil service, starting from underpayment, irregular payment to outright non-payment of salaries for over five months consecutively and counting”. Matters were compounded for the doctors, Dr. Zubair said, by a lack of the necessary healthcare infrastructure for optimum performance and fulfillment.

Frustrated that several industrial actions in the past to remedy the situation had been unfruitful, the NMA chairman revealed that scores of doctors had opted to disengage from the state public service. According to him “…In the last nine months alone, 27 doctors have resigned from the Kogi State Specialist Hospital (KSSH), Lokoja, including two consultants. Forty-four have resigned from the state Hospitals Management Board (HMB) and eight from the Kogi State University Teaching Hospital, Anyingba. More doctors are just waiting for the next available opportunity to leave”.

The unsavoury scenario in Kogi State only mirrors an alarming nationwide trend with highly skilled medical specialists leaving the country in droves, to pursue more financially rewarding and psychologically fulfilling careers abroad. Thus, the Lagos State branch chairman of the NMA, Dr. Olumuyiwa Odusote, in a newspaper interview noted disturbingly that hundreds of doctors have resigned from the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Lagos State public health facilities as well as the Ladoke Akintola University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomosho, in the last two years, to cite only a few. He warns that “seventy percent of Nigerian doctors are making plans to leave for foreign lands and are taking exams to that effect”.

This is of course only a tip of the iceberg as 35,000 of the 72,000 Nigerian doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) are reported to be practising abroad, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States.  Ironically, a large number of these globally marketable experts were trained in Nigeria, only to be forced to export their skills to more developed countries despite their services being badly needed at home.

Healthcare indices in Nigeria are worsened by the fact that nurses, pharmacists and laboratory scientists are also part of the substantial exodus of healthcare specialists from the country.

With adequate investment in the health sector to provide modern facilities and equipment as well as competitive and attractive remuneration for medical specialists, thousands of Nigerian doctors and other health professionals abroad will be encouraged to come back home. Nigeria undoubtedly has all it takes to become a global centre of medical tourism through which she can reap humongous revenues in addition to guaranteeing higher healthcare standards for millions of her citizens, which is an indispensable condition for accelerated national development.

This will require not just the requisite political will on the part of the respective governments but also carefully thought-out policies implemented with optimum efficiency. No less critical is the need to intensify the war against the massive corruption that drains public resources into private pockets as well as urgently enhance the fiscal capacity of the sub-national units of government to meet their responsibilities to the citizenry.


from The Nation Nigeria http://thenationonlineng.net/kogi-as-mirror/