Resident doctors threaten strike over anti-migration bill

THE Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has threatened to embark on strike over a House of Representatives bill which seeks to deny medical doctors full license until they have worked for a minimum of five years in the country.

The association made the threat in a communique released on April 10, following its emergency extended National Officers Committee meeting.

The communiqué which was signed by the NARD President Dr Emeka Orji; Secretary-General, Dr Kelechi Chikezie and Publicity and Social Secretary Dr Umar Musa, noted that the bill was an attempt to enslave medical practitioners.

Parts of the communiqué read: “The extended NOC admonishes the Federal House of Representatives that the obnoxious bill as sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson is a clear definition of modern-day slavery and not in keeping with anything civil, and so should be thrown away at this point.

“The house however agreed with him on the palpable dangers of the current menace of brain drain in the health sector and promised to work with the government to reverse the trend when the government was ready to come up with genuine solutions to the problem.

“The extended NOC reiterates that any attempt by the government or any of her agencies to enslave Nigerian medical doctors under any guise would be strongly and vehemently resisted by the association.”

NARD also urged the Federal Government to pay the 2023 Medical Residency Training Fund in accordance with the agreements reached by stakeholders assembled by the Federal Ministry of Health.

The association stressed that any attempts to violate the agreement would cause another series of unfavorable crises.

The resident doctors further called on the Federal Ministry of Health and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria to upgrade the current status of the membership certificates of the postgraduate colleges.

The Bill

The bill, sponsored by Ganiyu Johnson, seeks compulsory five years service for Nigeria-trained Doctors before they can traveling abroad for greener pastures.

The proposed legislation is aimed at addressing brain drain in the country’s health sector.

Johnson had, while addressing the House plenary, noted that it was only fair for medical practitioners, who enjoyed taxpayer subsidies in their training, to give back to society by working for a minimum number of years in Nigeria before exporting their skills abroad.

The ICIR had on April 7, reported how doctors in Nigeria vowed to resist the passage of the bill.

The World Health Organisation enlisted Nigeria among 55 countries on its Health Workforce Support and Safeguards List 2023. The global health body stated that the countries face the most pressing health workforce challenges related to universal health coverage.

Of the 55 countries, 37 were listed under African region category, including Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Gabon.

Others are Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

According to the WHO, these countries face: a density of doctors, nurses and midwives below the global median (i.e., 49 per 10 000 population) and a universal health coverage service index below a certain threshold.

    UK places Nigeria on red list

    On April 10, the United Kingdom (UK) government announced that it has placed Nigeria and 53 other countries on the red list of nations from which it will not recruit health workers without permission.

    The countries in the red list include 41 from Africa, Oceania 6, Asia 5, and America, 2.

    The development followed a March 14 alert by the World Health Organization (WHO) urging nations with more human resources for health to avoid hiring from those with few workers.

    The UK disclosed that it recognised a projected global shortage of 10 million health workers to achieve universal health coverage in low and lower-middle-income countries by 2030 and would continue to support quality health for its people and the rest of the world.

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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