Mr Peter Obi, candidate of Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election, has described continued migration of Nigerian trained medical doctors to other countries as unacceptable.
Obi said this at the opening ceremony of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Anambra Chapter’s Physicians’ Week and Scientific Conference held in Nnewi on Tuesday.
The theme of the Week is “Nigeria’s Healthcare Delivery System And The 2023 Democratic Transition: A Time To Change The Narrative”.
Obi was represented by Prof. Chinyere Okunna, the Commissioner in charge of Economic Planning/Budget, Office of MDGs and Development Partners during his administration as governor of Anambra.
He said it took a high sense of patriotism for any doctor to practice in Nigeria due to the unfriendly environment they were operating in.
“Any doctor who is still in Nigeria and is working is displaying great patriotism, this is because the working environment is unfriendly, equipment are not there, payment is not attractive and there is insecurity of doctors.
“Sadly, doctors, especially young ones, are leaving the country in their numbers,” he said.
Obi said during his administration in Anambra, there were challenges in the health sector including a period of industrial action by doctors, the problems were amicably resolved and the sector was in its optimal functional state at the time he left office.
He said that industrial action was a legitimate instrument of bargaining but what matters was how the parties settled their differences and how the system came out of it.
He said his government collaborated effectively with the mission to build a virile health sector, including building the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka, from scratch.
“I am happy with the theme you have chosen for this Year’s Week celebration because the time to act is now. If you have good governance here, the health sector won’t be as poor as it is now, so it is good that we have resolved to enthrone good leadership come 2023.
“Strikes and picketing are legitimate ways workers can express their grievances or draw attention to areas of making the system get better, I don’t blame anybody for embarking on a strike.
“Yes there was a strike in Anambra but it was resolved, salaries and arrears were paid, doctors returned to work and the health sector was greatly improved. If there is any sector that we did brilliantly, it was the health sector.”
In his lecture, Dr Jide Onyekwelu, the Secretary-General of NMA said the burden of brain drain on the country was huge as it was expensive to train a medical doctor.
Onyekwelu said while the UN standard recommended an average of one doctor to 500 patients, the ratio has dropped to about 1:5000 due to the declining number of doctors in the country.
He called on the Nigerian government to find out what made practicing outside the country more attractive to Nigerian doctors.
“Brain drain has devastated our medical sector. Nigerian doctors are well trained, that is why they are well sought after elsewhere but our government does not appreciate the quality of our doctors, so they leave to other countries.
“But they still travel to those countries where they are to see them, the same people they refused to make comfortable here,” he said.
In her remark, Dr Jane Ezeonu, Chairman of NMA in Anambra, said the Week which was organised in conjunction with Nnewi Branch was to draw the attention of government to the dwindling medical human resource challenges and its impact on the sector in Nigeria.
Ezeonu said the NMA would deliver free medical services to no fewer than 2,000 patients during the physicians’ week and hold its maiden zonal sports competition among the five zones in the state.
The award of Physician of the Year was presented to Dr Chukwudi Ihekweaba, a staff of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital by Prof. Gerald Uduigwe, Provost, Nnamdi Azikiwe University Medical College, who chaired the occasion.