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“Surplus” doctors: Ngige beats a retreat about false claim
MINISTER of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, says his comment about Nigeria having surplus doctors has been misinterpreted by the public.
During a television interview on Tuesday, Ngige said, “we have a surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. It’s my area, we have excess. Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out”.
However, a fact-check report by The ICIR and subsequent reactions from professionals and experts in the medical showed that the minister was wrong as Nigeria does not have up to the required number of doctors when compared to its population. The World Health Organisation doctor-to-population ratio is 1:600, but at present Nigeria’s ratio is one doctor to over 5,000 persons.
Following the backlash, Ngige, in a statement issued by his media aide, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, on Friday, explained that every other thing he said during the Channels Television interview was an “existential reality, useful and constructive fact … apart from Nigeria’s non-compliance with the World Health Organisation’s ratio of one doctor to six hundred patients of which I was misquoted”.
He maintained that having been a member of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria since June 1979, and having held administrative positions in the health sector, he was in a position to know the happenings in the sector.
“The truth, no matter how it hurts, must be told and reality, boldly faced,” Ngige said.
“I invite opinion moulders especially those who have spoken or written on this issue to watch the full clip of my interview with Channels (TV). And it is for this reason that I admitted having a little cause to worry about brain drain among medical doctors.
“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.
“The fact is that while the federal government has recorded a remarkably steady improvement in our healthcare system, Nigeria is yet to get there.”
Explaining why medical doctors were leaving the country in huge numbers, Ngige said it could be because Nigeria, at present, does not 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”.
He explained that almost 80 per cent of those who apply yearly were rejected and most times, they “complain of being illegally schemed out”.
“Luckily, the Ministry of Health in conjunction with the Ministry of Labour and Employment is developing a federal-assisted programme for these young doctors and other allied health professionals such as pharmacists, physiotherapists in a move to broaden training opportunities,” he said.
Ngige further explained that many young 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”.
“Even the National Youth Service Corps doctors, all, today seek postings to the cities as against what obtained some decades ago,” he said.