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MDCAN faults Bill mandating five-year service from fresh medical graduates before granting license

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
10 April 2023   |   9:58 pm
The Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria (MDCAN) has faulted the Bill seeking to make it mandatory for fresh medical graduates to provide services to Nigeria for up to five years before receiving a full registration and license to practice.

[FILES] Health. PHOTO: shutterstock

The Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria (MDCAN) has faulted the Bill seeking to make it mandatory for fresh medical graduates to provide services to Nigeria for up to five years before receiving a full registration and license to practice.

According to MDCAN, the proposed bill simply lacks the basic ingredients of good faith in the sense that it is both discriminatory and harsh, to say the least, and not in the interest of the people.

In a statement jointly signed by the President, Dr Victor Makonhuola, and the Secretary-General, Dr Yemi Raji, yesterday in Abuja, MDCAN noted that the Bill violates the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria, as Section 34 (1) b states that “no person shall be held in slavery or servitude” while section 34 (1) c states that “no one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”

The group posited that the bill is therefore an excellent example of modern-day slavery adding that it is shocking and very disrespectful to consider this rather odious Bill as a measure for regulating one of the noblest professions.

MDCAN pointed out that bonding already exists in the civil service with clear guidelines for its application stressing that government at both State and Federal levels do provide sponsorship for university education at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, with a proviso that individuals who benefit from such sponsorship will be bonded for a specified number of years.

They stated that for the bill to consider bonding medical doctors who never benefitted from any public sponsorship is an anomaly and a clear attempt to reap from where one has not sowed.

MDCAN noted that the passion and concern for the health of Nigerians demonstrated by Honorable Abiodun Ganiyu Johnson in proposing this bill as the panacea for physician brain drain is commendable albeit misdirected, ill-informed, and poorly thought through.

The consultants stated that while the idea of bonding medical doctors and indeed all health workers is not novel and has been repeatedly whispered in government corridors since the recent escalation in the health workforce brain drain, a thorough interrogation of the possible merits and demerits with stakeholders has ensured it remained a whisper which was gradually tailing off.

The statement read: “We received with a rude shock the news of a Bill purporting to make it mandatory for fresh medical graduates to provide services to Nigeria for up to five years before receiving a full registration and license to practice. This proposal is such that they would not be able to leave the country until after five years post-qualification. It is even more worrisome that the bill has passed through the second reading.

“In fact, this bill has the possible effect of doing the exact opposite: aggravating the exodus which we have been working with the Executive arm of Government to mitigate. It is pertinent to state that none of the suggestions of the inter-ministerial committee on brain drain and bonding of health workers has been implemented to date.

“Perhaps, a simple consultation with the primary constituency to be affected by

the Bill would have afforded the Honorable member a clearer understanding of the

hydra-headed nature of the problem he is trying to solve. This Bill has released a genie in the bottle.”

They observed that any further consideration for the passage of the bill will amount to a wild goose chase in addressing the challenge of brain drain; and that it erroneously assumed that only newly qualified doctors are emigrating from Nigeria.

“Recall that MDCAN has over the past two years, been at the forefront of calling the attention of policymakers in government and other critical stakeholders to the ongoing massive health sector brain drain.

“Our 2022 survey revealed that over 500 consultants were estimated to have left Nigeria over the preceding two years. Along with sister Associations in the health sector, we have provided to the appropriate agencies of government with both useful and practical suggestions on how to remedy the situation.

“You may wish to know that fresh doctors work under the supervision of the more senior ones. Without addressing the retention of the more senior doctors, coercion of the fresh doctors to stay in the system will be a futile effort if quality and effective health care delivery is the ultimate desire of the proponents of the Bill. The question now is, are we going to have another Bill to mandate that senior doctors to stay in the system for 10 years?

Adding: “The idea that Nigerian trained medical doctors received heavily subsidized education is pure fallacy. Tuition has remained part of the fees paid by every medical student, usually higher than that of non-medical students in most universities. The fact that this amount is smaller, relative to other countries – especially the developed countries does not amount to a subsidy, as every graduate who is lucky to get gainfully employed afterwards pays back by earning salaries far lower than their peers in developed countries.

“The irony is that the generation that had federal and state governments’ scholarships and meal subsidies on campus are the ones suggesting bonding of students who are self-sponsored.”

MDCAN argued that a major reason for the exodus of health workers is unemployment and under-employment adding that the bill erroneously assumed the capacity of the federal government to employ all the doctors for the next five years post-qualification.

“This is a capacity which even the most optimistic of analysts know that the government lacks. Is the bill then trying to increase the pool of unemployed and disenchanted Nigerians?

“Health care workforce shortage is a global phenomenon that requires international

collaboration to address, through well-thought-out, fair, and just guidelines. Hence,

enacting a law to address such a global issue with a local quick fix is an overkill. “All that the recipient nations need to do is to review guidelines for foreign graduates to include those who are yet to have full registration in their country but with evidence of completing medical education. Such review by recipient countries will render the proposed bill redundant while hastening the exit of newly qualified doctors. Some jurisdictions are already accepting Nigerian medical graduates with provisional registration for housemanship.”

Adding: “While we look forward to the public hearing to clarify our views on the floor of the Parliament, it is our hope that the points enunciated above will get the proponents of this Bill to strongly consider its withdrawal to save cost on further legislative processes on the Bill. We hereby convey our total rejection of the Bill and pray that it should be thrown out completely.

“How to promote the desire and willingness of health care workforce to stay back in the country should be the core focus of the National Assembly at this time. As the National Assembly remains the bastion of our democracy, laws that will make light of the most draconian military dictatorship should not emanate from our Hallowed Chambers.

“Our doors are open to critical engagements that would lead to improved health care delivery for Nigerians and pristine quality of the medical trainees”, they added.

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