By Joseph Kingston, Calabar
The comment credited to the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, that Nigeria has surplus doctors, did not gone down well with an aide to Governor Ben Ayade and Director General, Cross River Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Betta Edu, who Tuesday, reacted angrily over the comment.
In an interview in Calabar, Edu said Nigerian doctors were the least paid internationally, and therefore, tasked Dr. Ngige and the federal government to concentrate in implementing policies that would keep doctors at home instead of encouraging brain drain in the health sector.
“I want to put it clearly on record that the Minister of Labour and Productivity was wrong. By World Health Organization (WHO) standard, we need one doctor per 600 persons in a population.
“Even if we churn out the figure, we have today, 10 times for the next 10 years; we are not going to arrive at what Universal Health Coverage required from Nigeria. It is simple mathematics and not about anybody now.
“How many doctors are practicing right now in Nigeria? Just 35,000 and most of them are in urban areas. Very few of them are practicing in rural areas. How are we going to achieve universal health coverage when we are saying that with the 35,000 which is grossly inadequate, should go away.
“Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pays the house rent of its staff and childrens’ school fees. That is the oil sector; but we can do the same for our doctors to keep them to offer services.
“Beyond that, even as a nation, we should be discussing with International Labour Organization (ILO) to see how we could prevent more people from leaving instead of saying they can go. If they go away, how would the health sector in Nigeria work?
“I really don’t blame some of them and the reason is simple, other nations have the ability to pay for services. Go and ask how much they pay doctors in Ghana and convert it in dollars and then, compare it to what they pay doctors in Nigeria.” she said.
She, therefore, advocated functional facilities and better welfare packages for Nigerian Doctors, saying that the country churns out least number of medical doctors annually, compared to countries like the United States, Britain and even Dubai which, she said, have at least, 600 doctors sitting yearly annual medical examination.