Senator Chris Ngige denies saying ‘Nigeria has surplus doctors’

Nigerian doctors free to leave, we have excess - Minister of Employment

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige says he was misquoted on “Nigeria has surplus medical doctors” statement.

The minister also denied saying that doctors were free to export their trade to other countries and make a foreign exchange for the nation.

Ngige said he only meant that graduates of medicine who couldn’t find space for residency training are better off, seeking it elsewhere.

In a statement by his Special Assistant on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, the Minister clarified the statement, which he made on Channel Television, that has whipped up a storm.

The Minister was quoted as saying that Nigeria has enough medical doctors and doctors were free to leave to ply their trade in other countries because the nation will earn lots of foreign exchange from them.

But Ngige described the incident as well as the selective reportage which it fueled in the media as unnecessary, calling for a deeper understanding of the issue in question.

He said:

“I speak from the vantage 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 overseas 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.”

As for young medical graduates finding it difficult to get a place to do their housemanship program, Ngige said:

“Luckily, the Federal Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Employment is developing a federally assisted programme for these young doctors and other allied health professionals such as pharmacists, physiotherapists in a move to broaden training opportunities.”

While insisting that Nigeria has enough medical personnel to man non-specialist centres in the rural areas, he said the problem of health care delivery in the country was the refusal of young doctors to work in the hinterland.

He said: “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.“