The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has presented to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, a list of demands to stop the brain drain in the nation’s health sector.
The association, during a courtesy call on the speaker on Thursday, said there is a need for proper funding of the sector and urged the speaker to increase budgetary allocation to the sector.
The Chairman of NARD, Emeka Orji, who presented the list, said there is a need for adequate funding of residency training, restoration of the Overseas Exchange Programme, the need to amend the Medical Registration Act and an upward review of the salary structure for resident doctors, among others.
While responding to the requests of the doctors, Mr Gbajabiamila said a situation where over 2,000 resident doctors left the country and with about 800 leaving in the last eight months, bringing the average to about a hundred medical doctors leaving the country monthly in search of better working conditions, is unacceptable.
He, however, said the time had come for the government to holistically address the issues responsible for the negative trend.
“That is a very scary figure and that is not very encouraging for a country of over 200 million people to have the core of your medical team, your young ones, resident doctors, leaving in droves like that, definitely something must be wrong.”
“You have identified that to be the issue of emoluments and salaries, that’s always a very important issue. If you work, you must get paid, and you must get paid a good salary.
“It’s also important that we put those things in context in terms of everybody’s need to get paid, and that’s very important. That’s one of the reasons, if not the most important reason why you work because we all have families to take care of. But we must put it in the Nigerian context in terms of the revenues available to the country.
“And I’m sure a lot of doctors that leave the shores of Nigeria in search of greener pastures, many of them will be happy, many of them will also realize it’s not so easy on the other side either,” Mr Gbajabiamila said
While commending those who decided to stay behind despite the situation, Mr Gbajabiamila said, “What I would like to encourage you to do is to tarry a while, be a little bit more patient, and stay.
“As long as you have our ears here as your legislature, we will always, as best as possible, come to your aid.
“So, let’s put a stop to this brain drain as best as we can whilst we, on this side, try to make the environment a lot easier for you.”
The Speaker also assured the association that the clamour for an increase in the budgetary allocation for the health sector to meet the 2001 Abuja Declaration of 15 per cent of the annual budget allocation to health would be looked into, being a critical sector of the economy.
While cautioning stakeholders against the tradition of equating the ministry’s budgetary allocation to the entire budget of the sector, Mr Gbajabiamila nevertheless assured that the House would ensure that the sector was not shortchanged in the allocation of resources.
He added: “We’ll have a look at what percentage we have in this year’s budget for the health sector. We got the budget about a week ago, I’m still going through it, but I will zero in on health to find out what the percentage is, and how far away we are from the Abuja Declaration.
“I cannot promise that here. If we have fallen short, we will augment it. I cannot make that promise because it depends on a whole host of other things, but we will try our best to at least, come close. We will try our best to look at it objectively within the context of the revenue that is available to the country.
“There are so many things going on right now. That’s where the sacrifice comes in. Oil theft, dwindling revenue, the Ukraine war, and so many other things and everybody’s competing for the lean revenue. But we know our priority areas – education, and health are priority areas. We will do everything we can to make sure that as best as we can, we come as close to the Abuja Declaration, as we can.”
The Speaker also promised to look into the other demands of the group on adequate funding of residency training, restoration of the Overseas Exchange Programme, the need to amend the Medical Registration Act, and an upward review of the salary structure for resident doctors, all within available resources.
He urged the association to furnish his office with detailed information on some of the issues, saying, “I’d like to have some information on that in writing so that when we are making a case to the government we will be able to furnish them with even more details, to know exactly what case we are trying to make.”
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