OPEN LETTER TO HON. FEMI GBAJABIAMILA (SPEAKER HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES) AND HON GANIYU JOHNSON
Dear Femi Gbajabiamila and Ganiyu Johnson
I hope this letter meets you well.
I am writing this email to you with a deep sense of disappointment as it relates to your bill to coerce medical doctors to work in Nigeria without proper remuneration. I want to believe that you actually mean well for Nigeria but simply do not know the right way to go about retaining doctors in Nigeria. I want to use this medium to explain the reasons why the solution you have proposed is worse than a military decree/fiat and then provide you with an alternative approach for consideration.
Firstly, respected honourable, you should not delay doctors from having a full licence for 5 years due to the sad implications. There is nowhere in the world where doctors remain on a provisional licence for 5 years. Not having a full licence means that doctors cannot treat people without appropriate supervision. It means they will do their housemanship for 5 years. They cannot do operations by themselves for 5 years. It means they must have a senior doctor around to supervise them in everything they do. Nigeria does not have the capacity to train and supervise house doctors for 5 years. Doctors need to finish their horsemanship in 1 year so that other medical students can take their place in teaching hospitals. Without a full licence, doctors cannot do NYSC. To be able to perform NYSC as a doctor, the doctor must be able to practice independently without supervision. No supervisor will leave the teaching hospital to go and perform NYSC with the doctors because they don’t have full licences. Are you getting the point honourable? In summary, the doctors will be useless for 4 years if you do not give them full licences as they cannot practice independently. They won’t be allowed to treat the many Nigerians in villages and towns which you are fighting for without a full licence. They will only remain in the teaching hospitals under supervision. Not having a full licence for 5 years means that you will block those in medical school from graduating because they will have no space for housemanship until the earlier set gets their full licences and move out of the teaching hospitals. I hope this explanation is understandable to you, respected honourable.
Secondly, your justified your bill by saying that medical doctors had their education subsidized by the government. While this may be true for those who attended public universities, may I also inform you, sir, that law students, accounting students, education students, political science students, Engineering students and all public university students, in general, had their education subsidized by the government. So why are you picking on doctors for enslavement? That is a form of discrimination based on their profession and the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria protects against such discrimination. If you must stop doctors from leaving the country for the first 5 years after graduation, then you must stop all graduates from publicly funded universities from leaving also. Anything otherwise is professional discrimination which is against the law. Using the same logic, you may also want to ban public officers from sending their kids abroad or to private universities so that the same ‘rule of 5 years’ will apply. Respected honourable, it may also interest you to note that the UK and Canada spend over 10 times what Nigeria spends yearly subsidizing medical education yet, none of them has resorted to forced labour to retain its doctors. The United Kingdom for instance loses more doctors to Australia, New Zealand and Canada yearly than Nigeria does.
Thirdly, as you have clearly stated that the purpose of your bill is to stop doctors from seeking Jobs elsewhere. You have clearly admitted that you are trying to force them to work involuntarily. This is called forced labour. You have therefore violated international labour laws. What you have said in your bill is that you want to subject doctors to modern slavery. The punishment for modern slavery is similar to the punishment which Senator Ike Ekweremadu will get for organ trafficking. I am not sure if you are aware that modern slavery, human trafficking, and organ trafficking carry the similar punishment. Please, sir, do not allow yourself to be a slave master. Here is a link to help you understand forced labour, modern slavery and human trafficking.
Having outlined the problems with your bill, may I make a few suggestions going forward.
1. May I suggest that you initiate a bill to make car loans and government mortgages for doctors once they graduate. Give these new doctors 5 years to make reasonable repayments for these. After 5 years of repayment, the house(mortgage) and car become their own. This will indirectly encourage many doctors to stay as they will look forward to owning their own house in 5 years.
2. Kindly initiate a bill to stop the bullying of junior doctors by senior doctors during housemanship and or residency training. This bullying is one of the major reasons doctors are not entering into residency training and residency training is one good way to ensure doctors remain behind in Nigeria for 5-6 years. This, in addition to incentivizing residency training, will encourage more junior doctors to stay.
3. Initiate a bill prohibiting politicians from seeking treatment abroad when in office. This will encourage your ‘politician’ colleagues to develop the hospitals here in Nigeria and this will also show commitment from the political class to staying in Nigeria. It will set a good example for doctors to emulate. If the hospitals in Nigeria are not good enough to treat politicians, do you think they will be good enough to attract competent Nigerian doctors to stay behind? The answer is No.
4. May I also suggest that you initiate a bill that will ensure that even the most Junior medical doctor earns the same salary and allowances as a member of the federal House of Representatives. This will encourage them to stay just as that pay encourages politicians to stay in office. If doctors are important enough to be stopped from leaving the country through emergency (illegal) legislation, then they are very important and perhaps as important than legislators. It sounds to reason that they should earn at least equal to or more than legislators considering how important you consider them in your bill.
5. Finally, if you could initiate a bill to provide at least 2 policemen to protect each medical doctor from kidnap and robbery as is done for politicians, I can assure you that many doctors will not only remain in Nigeria, those who have left will start returning. Of course, I will prefer protecting the whole country better but I understand you may not be able to influence that.
Respected honourable, I hope you find these suggestions useful.
Disclaimer: This is not necessarily the opinion of those tagged and I have not sort their permission to tag them.