Federal lawmakers move to curb brain drain in health sector
To curb brain drain in the health sector, the National Assembly has hinted plans to enact a law that will define a period for consultants to serve the country before going overseas to practise.
This was disclosed in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, during an oversight exercise by House of Representatives Committee on Health Institutions at the University Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH), yesterday.
Giving a background to the law, Chairman of the Committee, Paschal Chigoziem-Obi, noted that the bill would mandate consultants to serve the country for a period to give back to the system before leaving the country for greener pasture.
Although he admitted that the bill might not be the best measure to curb brain drain, he noted that it is one of the ways to stop the trend.
He said: “It will interest you to note that we are also coming out with a bill, which will prohibit consultants and people in that cadre to travel after their training without spending a specified number of years in the country to, at least, pay back the system that trained them because their training is almost 100 per cent free.”
He added that the current economic realities thwarted government’s efforts to give doctors better welfare, blaming the constant devaluation of the naira as the immediate cause of the exodus by doctors to other climes.
“Consultants are trained with tax-payers’ money here almost 100 per cent free of charge, and when they qualify as consultants, they become hot cakes and marketable, to the extent that they can not even put in one, two or four years to show appreciation to the country that spent money to make become consultants.
“The government is doing so much. It is not something that will end in one day. It is a continuous process. Governments have been increasing salaries and the condition of living gets worst. The major problem is the rate at which the naira gets devalued. So the salary that was sufficient a few years ago is no longer enough. But our medical practitioners should start showing understanding and patriotism to this nation,” he explained.
According to the Chief Medical Director (CMD) of UPTH, Prof. Henry Ugboma, brain drain is a problem, but the most challenging is electricity.
The hospital, he disclosed, pays N20 million as electricity bill and spends over N60 million on diesel monthly.
He added: “We have some challenges, especially in the area of power. It is a major challenge in this hospital. We use about two trucks of diesel at N34 million each and pay Port Harcourt Electricity Distribution Company (PHEDC) an average of N20 million a month to have 24 hours power.
“We are looking into alternative means of power with some groups. We are also writing to multinationals to see how they can assist us in the area of alternative power. That is our biggest challenge.”
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