Buhari’s Health Minister, Ehanire under fire over plan to import doctors from Europe, America

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The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, on Friday, lambasted the Minister of Health, Osagie Emmanuel Ehanire, over what it termed “primitive, backward, and retrogressive thinking” of importing foreign-trained doctors to be employed to work in public hospitals.

HURIWA said the plan by the current Health Minister had shown the lack of adherence to standard policy implementation in the administration of the sector.

In a statement by its National Cordinator, Emmanuel Onuwbiko, the rights group charged the “Health Minister and his Minister of State to resign forthwith if they have run out of workable solutions to the problems afflicting the public healthcare system in the country.”

The statement reads: “It was this same Federal administration in the first tenure that Nigerians were told loud and clear by the then health minister Dr. Isaac Adewole that Nigeria is producing too many medical professionals and doctors even as the minister then went ahead comically to tell the doctors who are unable to find job slots both in the private and public health facilities to embrace tailoring and other vocational jobs.

“We in HURIWA with a membership of over ten thousand people made up mostly of youngsters including medical doctors, we are disappointed that those running public health policies in Nigeria are bereft of ideas that can turn around the health sector. Thinking of employing white or foreign doctors or even Cuban/Chinese doctors to work in Nigeria’s health sector is selfish, irrational and an attempt by the ministers to populate the public health facilities with ghost workers.

“What we need in Nigeria are not foreign doctors but the most up to date medical equipment and facilities that are in tune with the advances in technology of the 21st century and beyond. The country has more than enough competent doctors but due to corruption by the health institutions, virtually all the yearly budgets for health in the public sector are stolen by politician.”

HURIWA charged the Minister of Health to check the cases of procurement corruption in the public health ministries so as to ensure that the right calibre of facilities are bought and installed and for the usual in-house and regular training and capacity building workshops for the Nigerian doctors to be conducted in a transparent manner.

The rights group said, “It is well known that in many foreign jurisdictions such as the United States of America and Britain, the number of Nigerian doctors are so high to an extent that there were well conceived clamour to check the rapid brain drain of doctors and other top professionals from Nigeria who leave the shores of Nigeria in search of greener pastures.”

HURIWA recalled that Osagie Ehanire said that Nigeria would employ the services of medical experts from Europe and America just as the disclosure came at a time that some stakeholders are understandably expressing concern about the migration of health workers from the country.

“It is shocking that in this 21st century with the high number of Nigerian doctors to have read the minister of health saying that officials of the ministry were in touch with foreign embassies for specialists who would work in hospitals across the country for specified periods. To add salt to injury the minister, who stated this during the 2020 budget defence session, said the move would strengthen the nation’s health sector even when the idea of employing foreign doctors will only increase capital flights from Nigeria and worsen the state of unemployment and will not improve in any way the quality of healthcare delivered in the public health centres for as long as these healthcare institutions are grossly ill equipped with the medical facilities and devices that meet the best global practices”.

“HURIWA is miffed that the minister failed to state how importation of foreign doctors can stop for instance President Muhammadu Buhari from seeing the British doctors in London or stop politicians from medical tourism but whilst he was responding to a question from a member of the Mrs. Tolulope Akande Sodipe-led House of Representatives Committee on Diaspora Matters about plans for curbing medical tourism, the health minister misfired and veered off into the arena of comedy and irrationality.

“HURIWA hereby condemns Mr. Ehanire for saying that the experts, already exposed to sophisticated practice in the advanced world, would not only attend to the health needs of Nigerians but also use the opportunity to share expertise with their local counterparts even as we in the organised human rights community see this as an incurable addiction to neocolonialism and inferiority complex which must be discountenanced forcefully,” HURIWA said.

The rights group said the information by the minister that there are equally plans to make indigenous consultants and surgeons spend some time abroad and come back to improve the Nigerian healthcare system, is a red herring because most of the medical practitioners in Nigeria have attended courses abroad before returning to practice in the Country.

The statement added: “HURIWA hereby strongly condemns the minister for erroneously maintaining that the country’s teaching hospitals were adequately equipped and manned by experienced and qualified doctors but the same minister is the person canvassing the employment of foreign doctors. This is a fallacy of unfathomable dimension. It is clear that these health officials are bereft of idea but are only interested in what benefits can accrue to them and their political masters. Saying that the sector requires more funds to also create an enabling atmosphere for Nigerian experts in the diaspora to return and render free services to the homeland is neither here nor there. The health minister should stop procurement corruption first”.

HURIWA, however, dismissed the statements of the Health Minister as misconceived and abhorrent to good and qualitative reasoning given the facts that there are a high numbers of Nigerian trained doctors produced on regular basis after thoroughbred trainings in the medical faculties embedded in some respected Nigerian Universities under the competent supervision of the Medical and Dental Health Council of Nigeria.

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