Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, has lamented the state of the Nigerian health sector.

Speaking on Wednesday during a public hearing organised by the House Committee on Health, where two bills were presented at the National Assembly in Abuja, Dogara called for an overhaul of the health sector.

The bills under consideration were a Bill for an Act to Repeal the Health Records Officers (Registration, etc) Act, CAP. H2 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and Re-Enact the Health Information Practitioners Council of Nigeria for effective  and efficient Health Information Management, to Regulate the Training, Practice and Management of Health  Information System in Nigeria; and a Bill for an Act to Amend the Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria Act, CAP 1.112, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, to Provide for the Role of the Chemist, the Regulation of Practicing Fees by Members of the Institute; and for Other Related Matters.

“The ultimate aim of these legislations is to ensure that we have a more efficient service delivery in the health sector,” Dogara said.

“There is a compelling need for us to overhaul our health sector in view of the continuous public outcry against our defective health care delivery. The high number of Nigerians who go on foreign medical trips and the brain drain that we witness among our professionals in the sector, are indications that our health sector requires a serious surgical operation.”

Incidentally, Dogara’s comments came on the same day Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, said he was unconcerned about the migration of Nigerian doctors to other countries, claiming they were a source of foreign exchange.

Asked to comment on brain drain and if the deliberate recruitment of Nigerian doctors by foreign embassies is detrimental to the nation’s health sector, Ngige had said: “No, I am not worried [about doctors leaving the country]. We have surplus.

“If you have surplus, you export. It happened some years ago here. I was taught chemistry and biology by Indian teachers in my secondary school days. There are surplus in their country and we also have surplus in the medical profession in our country. I can tell you this. In my area, we have excess.

“Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil.”

The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and National Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) fired back hours after, though, with Adedayo Faduyile, the NMA President, precisely branding the comments as as “unfortunate”.

“That is an unfortunate statement which shows that he has done nothing in medical practice,” Faduyile had said.

“The World Health Organisation stated that, for optimal healthcare to be achieved, we need doctor/patient ratio of one to 600. In Nigeria, we have 40,000 doctors taking care of 200 million people. It’s unfortunate, we do not have enough doctors. Maybe he is looking at the monetary part, but there is opportunity cost. We have the maternal mortality that is about the highest in the world. To correct it, we need health professionals around.”

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