In a recent statement issued after its National Executive Council gathering in Abuja, the Nigerian Medical Association expressed deep concern over the mounting migration of medical and dental professionals to foreign countries. The association warned that if this trend continues, the nation will face a dire shortage of skilled healthcare workers, leading to an impending crisis in the health sector. The communique, titled ‘Achieving Universal Health Coverage in a depressed economy,’ emphasises the urgent need for immediate action to reverse this situation.
Dr. Uche Ojinmah, who is the President of the association, along with Dr. Jide Onyekwelu, the Secretary-General, signed the statement issued to the public. The National Executive Council (NEC) further said that the alarming trend in the medical and dental sector will devastate the country as more personnel move abroad due to the so-called ‘Japa syndrome’. In this case, the council warned that if this trend continues unchecked, Nigeria will inevitably face many consequences as the populace will have little to no access to health services.
Personnel continue to fall prey to brutal assaults and abductions.
The NEC concern grew exponentially as it became evident that healthcare workers, despite their relentless effort to provide Nigerians with essential medical care, continued to fall prey to brutal assaults and abductions not only within healthcare facilities but also outside. In parts of the statement, it was expressed by the NEC stated that there is disappointment towards the inability of government bodies at various levels to adequately address security breaches, as well as the alarming occurrences of kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, and unjust killings of Nigerian citizens.
Also, the association NEC highlighted that Nigeria’s journey towards achieving UHC targets had faced significant challenges despite substantial endeavours. The pace of progress has been alarmingly sluggish, which poses a grave threat to reaching UHC goals. This slow advancement is compounded by shifting demographics, a transitioning burden of diseases, decreased support for health development assistance, and inadequate domestic financing for healthcare. The NEC emphatically denounced the current scenario in which about 80 percent of Nigerians are burdened with out-of-pocket expenses and lack insurance coverage, deeming it entirely unacceptable.
Only 5% of the entire 2024 budget was allocated towards healthcare.
According to them, health insurance possesses the potential to address the Nigerians’ healthcare needs efficiently by offering accessible, cost-effective, and enduring healthcare services. The NEC remarked that President Ahmed Bola Tinubu GCFR’s current leadership of the Federal Government has put forward a plan to allocate 5% of the entire 2024 budget towards healthcare. Although this represents progress compared to past budgets, the NEC emphasised that it falls significantly short of the 15% benchmark outlined in the Abuja declaration of 2001.
Despite numerous reminders and pleas, the Federal Government has yet to implement the revised Consolidated Medical Salary Structure circular and Accoutrement allowance, both of which were circulated in July 2023. However, the non-implementation of these measures has now been condemned. The recent directive issued by the management of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, instructing medical students to sign a declaration accepting the potential extension of their obligatory six-year medical undergraduate program to more than 12 years, was strongly condemned by the NEC due to its outrageous nature.
Students are charged high fees without any academic progression.
Similarly, the actions described above were considered both unjust and highly offensive by the NEC. They were seen as a direct violation of international human rights laws, as well as the Nigerian constitution and the principles of civil liberty. Additionally, the NEC expressed its condemnation towards the management of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, for imposing exorbitant school fees on medical students. Furthermore, the NEC criticised the university for forcing students to pay these high fees without any academic progression.