According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it’s recommended for a country to have a mix of 23 doctors, midwives and nurses per 10,000 people. However, the doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria is 1 to 30,000 patients in the South and 1 to 45,000 patients in the North.
To tackle this problem, the House of Representatives, Nigeria’s junior legislative chamber, is blaming japa—emigration—and on April 6, 2023, a dreary Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022 passed for second reading.
What is this bill?
The MDPA Bill would make it compulsory for any Nigerian-trained medical doctor or dentist to practise in Nigeria for at least five years before being granted a full licence.
The House of Reps gave two reasons for this bill:
- To make quality healthcare available to Nigerians and avoid a total collapse of our health sector.
- Medical education is heavily subsidised in Nigeria compared to schools in the United States and Europe, and this is a way for doctors to give back to the country.
However, the House of Representatives might be turning a blind eye to the deplorable state of Nigeria’s healthcare system.
For instance, on December 8, 2022, the Abia chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association embarked on a strike to demand payment of salaries owed to them by the State government. Also, Nigerian hospitals lack proper funding and infrastructure; doctors are forced to work under poor conditions and are often underpaid.
Reactions to the Bill
There have been mixed reactions to the Bill so far; some people agree with the government, while others think the House of Reps is showing a more advanced form of wickedness.
The Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria (MDCAN) have rejected the Bill and described it as modern-day slavery. And this is against Section 34(1) b of the Nigerian constitution, which says, “No person shall be held in slavery or servitude”, and Section 34(1) c, which states: “No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.”
Unfortunately, the House of Reps skipped over steps of providing standard medical infrastructure, improving working conditions and increasing the pay of medical practitioners to instead infringe on their fundamental human rights. They also failed to address the amount of money spent on medical tourism by public officials.
Members of the House of Reps should first remove the log of wood in their eyes before trying to tie down medical practitioners simply looking for greener pastures.
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