The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, says the compulsory five-year service for graduates in medical and dental fields before being granted full licence proposed in a bill by the House of Representatives is with good intention. He made his position known on Friday in Abuja.
The Bill for an Act to Amend the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act, Cap. M379, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 was sponsored by Rep. Ganiyu Johnson.
It passed for second reading on 6 April and seeks to “mandate any Nigeria-trained medical or dental practitioner to practice in Nigeria for a minimum of five years before being granted full licence by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN).”
The goal, according to the sponsor is to “make quality health services available to Nigeria.”
The health minister thinks the bill is good because it seeks to curb brain drain.
“If I can read the mind of Johnson properly, he wants to be able to keep those who have studied here a bit longer for some time before they can be free to go,” he said.
“If you look at the fact that the fees we pay at our universities, definitely they do not make up for the cost of training.
“If you want to know what it costs to train a doctor, go to a private university and know what they pay for school fees.
“That is a benchmark of what it costs but in our public universities, we don’t pay anything near that.
“So, actually, it means that it is subsidised with taxpayers money because if the government allows you to get training for about one-tenth or one-twentieth of the cost of the private university, then it means it is subsidised.”
Dr. Ehanire added that it is morally right to give back to the society after one has received quality education.
Doctors in Nigeria have kicked against the bill since it was introduced at the House of Representatives.
They argue that many of them leave Nigeria to practice abroad due to inadequate facilities and poor remuneration in the country.
The Diaspora Medical Associations have also added their voices to the issue.