Why I sponsored bill on compulsory 5-yr practice for Nigerian doctors – HON JOHNSON

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A Lagos lawmaker representing Oshodi Isolo II Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Ganiyu Johnson, has explained the rationale behind the bill seeking to retain medical doctors in Nigeria.

Recall that Johnson had, last week, proposed a bill, seeking to ensure Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioners must work in the country for a minimum of five years before they are granted full licenses or travel abroad.

Johnson spoke in an interview on The Morning Show of Arise Television on Thursday.

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According to the lawmaker, the bill aimed at curtailing the influx of Nigerian-trained medical and dental practitioners to foreign countries has passed second reading at the House of Representatives.

The bill, sponsored by a member representing Oshodi Isolo II Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives Ganiyu Abiodun Johnson, was read on the floor of the House on Thursday.

It was titled “A Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 to mandate any Nigeria-trained Medical or Dental Practitioner to Practise in Nigeria for a Minimum of Five (5) before being granted a full licence by the Council in order to make Quality health Services available to Nigeria; and for Related Matters (HB.2130).”

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The bill was proposed as part of effort to cut down on the increasing number of doctors leaving Nigeria in search of better opportunities abroad.

Johnson argued that it was fair for medical practitioners who had benefited from taxpayer subsidies to undergo mandatory service for a minimum number of years in Nigeria before taking their skills abroad.

Majority of lawmakers supported the bill, although some called for flexibility and options in the proposed law.

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However, a member of the House, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta opposed the bill on the grounds that it amounted to enslavement to tie a doctor down for five years in Nigeria post-graduation before seeking employment overseas.

Despite this opposition, a majority voice vote passed the bill for a second reading.

Meanwhile, the Diaspora Medical Associations in diaspora, DMA has petitioned the National Assembly over the bill seeking to compel medical and dental graduates to render five-year compulsory services within Nigeria before being granted full license to practise.

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The letter titled “Re: A position statement from diaspora medical associations – Bill seeking to restrict newly-qualified medical doctors and dentists from leaving Nigeria,” was dated April 11, 2023.

The letter by the umbrella body of Nigerian medical doctors and dentists practising outside the country, was addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.

The body also copied the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe; and the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Dr Tanko Sununu.

The letter was signed by the President, the Nigerian Doctors’ Forum, South Africa, Dr Emeka Ugwu; the President, Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, Dr Chinyere Anyaogu; the President, Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain, Dr Chris Agbo; the President, Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists, Dr Nnamdi Ndubuka; and the President, Nigerian Medical Association-Germany, Dr Al Amin Dahiru.

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The DMA said the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill sponsored by Ganiyi Johnson, which passed second reading at the House of Representatives last week, was counterproductive and would not achieve its intended goal of addressing brain drain in the country.

In its statement, the DMA said, “We recognise the problems posed by the exodus of Nigerian medical professionals from our health system, including, but not limited to decreased access to health care services, lack of quality of care, care delivery deserts the inability to adequately enact health care and public health policy due to lack of manpower and leadership resource.

“The major cause of brain drain includes a poor care delivery framework from a failure to invest in the health care to foster a conducive environment. The system does not promote professionalism, growth, work satisfaction, or a high-reliability culture.

“Other major drivers include very poor welfare packages, high levels of insecurity, limited opportunities for employment, subspecialty training, sociopolitical and economic instability. The majority of these issues stem from outside the health care system and are outside of an individual’s control.

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“Indeed, good governance and commitment to future investment in health care would improve conditions in the country that will allow security, good education for children, improved compensation, as described in the Abuja Declaration.”

The associations also said focusing on one aspect of a problem without taking a holistic approach to a sustainable solution would be ineffective.

“Young professionals leave the country in search of better opportunities. Many are frustrated by the consequences of governance failures that have progressively worsened over the past 30 years.

“The unfortunate reality is the health care system is in a state of serious neglect, training and career development opportunities are limited further impairing earning potential. Insecurity is rampant. Equity and justice are lacking for the average Nigerian.

“The Diaspora Medical Associations are invested in crafting effective solutions and are willing to participate in fostering solutions to that extent.”

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However, the doctors called on the Speaker to embrace the purposeful systemic solution and ensure that a ‘quick fix’ attempt does not worsen the situation.

They also pledged to support positive changes, and growth of the health sector to stop and reverse the brain drain in Nigeria.

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