Recently, the Diaspora Medical Associations, an umbrella body of Nigerian medical doctors and dentists practicing outside the country, has written a petition to the National Assembly concerning the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act (Amendment) Bill. The bill, which was sponsored by Ganiyi Johnson, seeks to make it compulsory for medical and dental graduates to render five years of compulsory services within Nigeria before they can be granted a full license to practice.
The letter was titled ‘Re: A position statement from diaspora medical associations – Bill seeking to restrict newly-qualified medical doctors and dentists from leaving Nigeria,’ and was dated April 11, 2023. It was addressed to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and 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 Presidents of various diaspora medical associations, including the Nigerian Doctors’ Forum in South Africa, the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, the Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain, the Canadian Association of Nigerian Physicians and Dentists, and the Nigerian Medical Association in Germany.
In their statement, the DMA acknowledged the problem of brain drain in Nigeria’s healthcare system, which has resulted in a decreased access to healthcare services, lack of quality of care, care delivery deserts, and an inability to adequately enact healthcare and public health policy due to a lack of manpower and leadership resource.
However, the DMA believes that the bill is counterproductive and would not achieve its intended goal of addressing brain drain in the country. They argued that the major cause of brain drain is due to a poor care delivery framework from a failure to invest in healthcare 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 associations also said that focusing on one aspect of the problem without taking a holistic approach to a sustainable solution would be ineffective. Many young professionals leave the country in search of better opportunities, frustrated by the consequences of governance failures that have progressively worsened over the past 30 years. The unfortunate reality is the healthcare system is in a state of serious neglect, and training and career development opportunities are limited, further impairing earning potential. Insecurity is rampant, and 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. Therefore, they called on the Speaker to embrace the purposeful systemic solution and ensure that a ‘quick fix’ attempt does not worsen the situation. The doctors also pledged to support positive changes and the growth of the health sector to stop and reverse brain drain in Nigeria.