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Why Nig. doctors emigrate–NMA President

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By Abraham Adekunle

A call for government action on the struggles of Nigerian doctors.

In a recent interview with the National President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Uche Ojinmah, the challenges faced by the country’s doctors were brought to light. Speaking with news correspondents, Ojinmah outlined the union’s plans and concerns, particularly in the context of an ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement salary demands. However, the discussion went beyond salary issues, touching upon the relationship with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), the recurrent problem of strikes, and the concerning trend of doctors emigrating overseas for better opportunities. The interview started with him addressing the recent directives issued by the MDCN. He clarified that the NMA is not in conflict with the regulatory body but expressed dissatisfaction with the timing of the directives.

According to Ojinmah, while the MDCN has the right to issue guidelines for medical practice, the timing seemed like an attempt to hinder the association’s activities. Despite meeting with the MDCN registrar to discuss the matter, he stressed that the directives were not adequately timed, and the NMA should have been consulted on critical issues, such as the ongoing struggle for improved Salaries. A significant aspect that emerged during the interview was the increasing trend of doctors leaving Nigeria for better prospects abroad. Ojinmah acknowledged the challenges faced by doctors within the country, including poor remuneration, lack of job satisfaction, insecurity, and an unstable Economy.

Concerns over MDCN directives and emigration of doctors.

He argued that the government must take concrete actions to address these issues, emphasizing that the Brain Drain in the medical sector poses a severe threat to Healthcare in Nigeria. The NMA president went further to elaborate on the economic factors driving doctors to emigrate. He explained that the depreciation of the Nigerian currency and the Tax Policies on medical professionals contribute to the appeal of working overseas. Ojinmah lamented the government’s lack of action to curb the brain drain, noting that neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Gambia continue to attract Nigerian doctors.

This discussion delved into the core issues that have led the NMA to issue an ultimatum to the Federal Government. Ojinmah highlighted the demands for an upward review of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), a long-standing issue that has not been addressed for over a decade. The NMA president explained the rationale behind the association’s demand for a 200% increase in salary, emphasizing the significant depreciation in the purchasing power of the Naira since the last salary review in 2009.

Government’s role in retaining medical professionals.

Despite negotiations and compromises from the NMA’s side, Ojinmah expressed frustration over the government’s failure to implement agreements. He called for proactive measures, asserting that the government should honour its promises without necessitating strikes. He took a moment during the interview to apologize to those who may have lost loved ones due to strikes and emphasized that strikes are not the first choice for the NMA. He pointed out that doctors worldwide sometimes resort to strikes when faced with unmet demands from the government. However, he stressed that the government’s proactive approach could prevent such situations and ensure the smooth functioning of the healthcare system.

The interview also touched on the cyclical nature of unimplemented promises and assurances from the government. Ojinmah suggested that the government must prioritize certain critical areas, such as healthcare, to prevent the continuous brain drain. He criticized the government’s lack of understanding of the peculiar brain drain happening in the medical sector, emphasizing that exporting skilled workers is not a sustainable solution. As the interview concluded, he outlined the NMA’s plans if the government fails to meet their demands before the ultimatum deadline.

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Ojinmah emphasized the association’s commitment to following its constitutional processes, indicating that decisions would be made collectively in a meeting. The NMA president reiterated that any decision to go on strike would be a result of the government’s failure to fulfill its obligations. In shedding light on the challenges faced by Nigerian doctors, the interview with Uche Ojinmah painted a vivid picture of the complex issues affecting the healthcare system. From salary disputes and regulatory challenges to the critical problem of doctors leaving the country, the conversation highlighted the need for urgent and comprehensive reforms. As the January 31st ultimatum approaches, the ball is in the government’s court to address the concerns raised by the NMA and ensure the stability and effectiveness of Nigeria’s healthcare system.


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