The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has clarified his position on the issue of international migration by the Nigerian medical doctors as contained in his interview on Channels Television live morning programme yesterday, Wednesday.
He said that his views have been subjected to serial distortion and misinterpretation, arising from skewed news broadcast by the Channels media team.
He described the incident as well as the selective reportage, which it fueled in the media as unnecessary, calling for a deeper understanding of the issue in question.
In a statement issued yesterday by his Special Assistant on Media, Nwachukwu Obidiwe, the minister said that being a patriotic Nigerian and a medical doctor, he fully appreciates the sensitivity of the issue at hand and the consequential negative import of brain drain on national productivity.
He said he was being factual rather than sentimental in his assessment of the situation, adding that every Nigerian that watched the full interview will hardly dispute his position.
“I speak from the vintage position of being a medical doctor and member, Nigerian Medical Association since June, 1979 and enriched by my vast knowledge on health administration, having retired as a Deputy Director, Medical Services and Training from the Federal Ministry of Health in 1998, member of Vision 2010 Committee on Health as well as senior member, Senate Committee on Health 2011-2015,” he said.
The minister said that despite remarkable progress recorded by the federal government in the sector, there are still some shortcomings.
For instance, Ngige said the country still do not have enough health facilities to accommodate all the doctors seeking to do tertiary specialist training (residency) in the Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and few accredited state and private specialist centres in the country.
“And it is for this reason that I admitted having a little cause to worry about brain drain among medical doctors. The fact is that while the federal government has recorded a remarkably steady improvement in our healthcare system, Nigeria is yet to get there. We do not at present have enough health facilities to accommodate all the doctors seeking to do tertiary specialist training (residency) in the Teaching Hospitals, Federal Medical Centres and few accredited state and private specialist centres in the country, where roughly 20 per cent of the yearly applicants are absorbed while the remaining 80 per cent, try their luck elsewhere.”
“Therefore, the truth, no matter how it hurts, must be told and reality, boldly faced. Hence, apart from Nigeria’s non-compliance with the World Health Organisation’s ratio of one doctor to 600 patients of which I was misquoted, every other thing I said in that interview is an existential reality, useful and constructive facts which every Nigerian that watched the full interview will hardly dispute. I invite opinion moulders, especially those who have spoken or written on this issue to watch the full clip of my interview with the channels,” he said.
According to the statement, most of the rejected applicants for specialist training usually throng the Federal Ministry of Health and that of Labour and Employment to complain of being illegally schemed out.
It also said the problem was not limited to doctors seeking specialisation as young medical officers who graduate from medical schools spend two to three years looking for a space for housemanship.
The statement reads in part: “What the Minister meant therefore is that these professionals have the right to seek for training abroad to sharpen their skills, become specialists and later turn this problem to a national advantage when they repatriate their legitimate earnings and later return to the country.
“Even where some of these doctors are bonded to their oversea training institutions, examples abound on the large number of them who have successfully returned to settle and establish specialist centres across the country. It is therefore a question of turning your handicap to an advantage”.