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Senate Committee Chairman Kicks Against Proposed Compulsory Five-year Service For Medical Workers

By Tunde Akanbi, Ilorin

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The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary and Secondary Health in the Senate, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe has joined other critical stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector to express reservations on a proposed bill seeking to mandate Nigerian-trained medical and dental professionals to practice for a minimum of five years before being granted a full licence.

The proposed bill has passed the second reading in the House of Representatives.

The bill seeks to amend the Medical Doctors and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004.

It is to mandate any Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioner to practice in Nigeria for a minimum of five (5) years before being granted a full license by the Council to make quality health services available to Nigeria; and for related matters (HB.2130).

The bill is being sponsored by a member Representing Oshodi Isolo II Federal Constituency of Lagos State, Ganiyu Johnson.

The legislator who is a medical practitioner representing Kwara Central Senatorial District made his reservations known in an opinion statement he signed and made available to the media. He captioned: “My position on the Bill to make it mandatory for Medical and Dental practitioners not to be given full practising license until five years after graduation to stem brain drain.”

Oloriegbe stated that the legislation is not strong enough to curb the menace of brain drain in the country’s health sector resulting from the quest of medical doctors to seek better working conditions abroad.

He explained further that “the factors responsible for brain drain are multifaceted and the mere denial of full practice license to medical practitioners as contained in the proposal will never resolve and may even aggravate them.”

Besides, it is not only medical doctors that are leaving the country for greener pastures abroad, there are other health workers, as well as professionals in other fields of human endeavour, trained but leaving the country on daily basis for similar purposes, consequently, focusing attention only on the medical doctors is like curing one of many ailments that are threatening the life of a dying patient without finding solutions to the others,” the lawmaker explained.

Oloriegbe stressed in the statement that “with all due respect, the issues and facts related to granting of practising license are not understood by the sponsor of the bill, thus, it becomes imperative for me as a stakeholder in the health sector to offer my perspective, this time as a medical practitioner of many years and not particularly as a senator with the privilege of heading the Senate Committee on Health.”

According to him, the piece of the proposed legislation at a minimum violates the right to the “Freedom of Movement” (Sec. 41) and “The right to freedom from discrimination” under (Sec. 42) as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN) 1999, as amended.

These rights, he explained cannot be ordinarily denied by any person or government, thus, the Senate can’t be seeking legal redress through an illegal procedure.

The legislator also argued further that a person who is “qualified as a Medical Doctor” cannot be denied a license to practice having been certified qualified, except if he is found wanting in the ethics of the profession as labour laws will come into place in situations like this.

The Chairman of the committee said furthermore that “before the bill can be considered for legislative passage and executives’ approval, the following fundamental issues are important to scrutinise when does the 5-year period start, before or after the housemanship and what sort of license will be awarded to a fully trained doctor instead of a full license to practice under the proposal?”

He, therefore, said that resolving the challenge of brain drain in the country’s health sector cannot be achieved through this bill but rather, the lawmakers need to address the various factors that make skilled health workers desire to migrate out of Nigeria.

According to him, “rather than enacting laws that will curtail the rights of the citizens to free movement and seek better opportunities through legal means, legislators should advocate for an improved system that will be very attractive and make them unwilling to travel abroad to seek better living conditions.”

He recommended that medical students could be obliged to choose between paying the standard market rate for their training or opting for government-subsidised training and that quality education in its real sense can’t be free while those who however opted for subsidized training after their qualification would in return be compelled to work in Nigeria for a certain time or refund the subsidies which is a practice obtainable even in advanced countries such as the UK.

Oloriegbe also called for an improvement in the country’s health system with sustainable investments to make it conducive for the various health workers to work.

 

 

Mercy Chukwudiebere

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