Nigeria commences major review of health sector; public doctors may be barred from private practice

University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital [Photo:]
University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital [Photo:]

The Nigerian government on Wednesday commenced moves for a major review of the health sector including whether or not doctors in public hospitals should engage in private practice.

Several Nigerians have alleged that doctors in public hospitals refer their patients to their own private clinics for treatment in order to make more money.

The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, while briefing journalists in Abuja after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, said the Council has set up a committee to review the laws guiding medical practice and how it conflicts with the Nigerian code of conduct for public officials.

Mr. Adewole stated that Nigerian law, through the code of conduct for public officials, does not allow a public officer to engage in any business other than farming.

He said the committee would make appropriate recommendations to government on the issue which he said is of considerable interest to Nigerians.

According to the 2008 Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria, a registered practitioner in full time employment in the public service shall not engage in extramural private practice during official duty time under any circumstances.

However, some doctors have been noted to be engaging in private practices during official work time while leaving their service posts under the care of junior resident doctors or house officers.

Mr. Adewole added that the council also considered an important memo on industrial relations particularly in the public sector that he said dealt extensively with several issues.

He said there was an urgent need for a comprehensive job evaluation of the health sector.

“So government has decided to set up a committee that would evaluate what exactly do we do as individuals, how much should we be paid in a way that we can really pay appropriately across board through the entire country.”

Mr. Adewole also said the Council also looked at the issue of residency training programme and decided that the training should last for a fixed time of seven years after training so that the individuals should exit the programme for other people to get in.

“In addition to that, we will also look at the Yayale Ahmed Report which tried to look into the relationship between professional groups in the health sector. The office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, has been mandated to forward a white paper on the Yayale Ahmed Report to FEC so that once and for all, government can restore harmony to the health sector,” he added.

There has been a long term rivalry in the Nigerian health sector between doctors and other health workers especially over salaries and positions.


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  • TrueFairGame

    This is major. Solid arguments can be made from both side. while It is true doctors refer patients to their private businesses and they simply use the public hospitals to market their clinics. we should be careful with this type of decision. The volume of work in public hospitals is much and the remuneration is not enough to keep a very good doctor away from private practice.
    This must be looked into thoughtfully otherwise experienced medical personnel may stay away from public hospitals.
    Facilities in public hospitals is another issue. Infact our hospitals dont understand ’emergency’ or value of human life. many have died due to negligence and without anybody held responsible.

    • JM newman

      My people this is just a jamboree moves because in a developed countries a public doctor can also practice in private sector, there is not wrong with that. This government have really proved that they lost vision.

      • Edehwosa Henry

        It is going to hard decision to make. Can the government keep the best hands by paying them very well? Can the govt equip the hospitals?the truth is that no doctor will work in an hospital where he is underpaid. Right now doctors are leaving the country even those that were trained by the government. Until the govt is ready to face it’s responsibility things are going to get worse. On issue of rivalry in the health sector, the govt should come out with roadmap where all the health workers will decide their destiny based on their job description. By everyone will be restricted to his or her job. A situation where everybody want to bear the name medical doctor without passing through a medical school is appalling!it is the duty of the govt to save Nigeria from this senseless medical and political Quargmire.


          I agree with you. Government must look at equipment in the public sector hospitals before banning private practice. The cost of care in Private hospitals are double, if not triple that of Public hospitals. Patients are aware of this and have a choice to decide where to go. No body can prohibit a patient from seeking care where they so desire. After all, Nigerians go as far as India, USA etc for health care. The only clause in my opinion remains that no Doctor in the employ of Government should be seen in Private Hospitals during official working hours. And in case a Doctor is on call in his primary place of employment, he needs to give priority to his call whenever his attention is needed.

  • Du Covenant

    Very good move in the right direction. No nation can make progress with the level of chaos there is in our society. There must be clear differentiation between public and private practice with strict code of conduct for both systems if we can be serious for once. A physician who wishes to go private should make that choice and have no business practicing in public facilities at the same time because there is profound conflict of interest in the system we have today. Let patients be referred to these private physicians for their expertise and reputation they may have worked hard to build. Despite the ideals of the NHS, it is failing today for a variety of reasons and one of the reasons is, the consultants spend more time in private facilities and so you have long waiting lists in the public hospitals for the mundane of procedures. This is even in the UK, so you can imagine what hell our fellow citizens go through in additon to lack equipment because they have been stolen away to ‘private clinics/hospitals’. Let that clear distinction be make so that a proper package and training will be put in place by the government.