Dr. Osagie Ehanire, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, has thrown his weight behind the proposed bill compelling medical graduates to work for a period of five years before leaving the country.
The Minister in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday said the intention of the bill is good.
He stressed that the bill will address the current exodus of doctors into Europe and America from the country.
According to the bill, which has been passed for second reading on April 6, it mandates any Nigeria-trained Medical or Dental Practitioner to Practice in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted a full license by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).
“The intention is good because it is talking about curbing the brain drain of doctors,” he said. “If I can read the mind of Johnson properly, he wants to be able to keep those who have studied here a bit longer for some time before they can be free to go.
“If you look at the fact that the fees we pay at our universities, definitely do not make up for the cost of training.
“If you want to know what it costs to train a doctor, go to a private university and know what they pay for school fees,” he added.
Having highlighted the cost to train a doctor in private universities the minister noted that tuition in government owned institutions are being subsidized about one-tenth or one-twentieth of the cost of a private university.
“That is a benchmark of what it costs but in our public universities, we don’t pay anything near that.
“So, actually, it means that it is subsidized with taxpayers’ money because if the government allows you to get training for about one-tenth or one-twentieth of the cost of the private university, then it means it is subsidized.
“Therefore, I’m sure Ganiyu was thinking about those in that category who should also give back to the country, having received classy education that is respected outside.
“This is because even the cost of training here is very small compared to school fees paid in foreign countries to become a doctor. I think this is the angle the representative was looking at the issue from,” he noted.
While legislation on the bill is ongoing, the minister however added compelling graduates does not necessarily have to be by law stressing that one has received quality education it is left for the individual whether to give back to the society or not.
The sponsor of the bill, Representative Abdulganiyu Johnson, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Lagos said the bill was necessitated by the crisis in Nigeria’s health sector.
He added that the bill was not meant to prevent anyone from traveling abroad and also not an attempt to impede human rights.
He said, “Our population is more than 200 million and the number of medical doctors we have is about 10,000. If care is not taken may be herbalists will have to take over and be treating our people.
“We have a crisis already and how do we mitigate it? Let us increase the number of years they (doctors) will get their licenses and this is not to stop them from traveling abroad.
“The five years include their national service and housemanship period, which amounts to three years and it is a way of promoting professionalism. You can register for your residency and engage in hospital services.”