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Senate considers bill to address exodus of doctors, nurses

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Senate considers bill to address exodus of doctors, nurses

The Senate Chamber

A bill that would aid the reduction in numbers of Nigerians traveling for medical care and working in overseas hospitals passed second reading in the Senate

Sponsor of the “Federal Medical Centres (Establishment) Bill, 2021”, Senator Aishatu Dahiru Ahmed (APC Adamawa Central), said “an average of 20,000 Nigerians travel to India each year for medical assistance due to the absence of a solid healthcare system at home.”

Senator Ahmed noted that the piece of legislation would also sufficiently address remuneration of the employees of the Medical Centers which in turn would check the exodus of doctors and nurses to other countries.

“Seventy-seven percent of black doctors in the US are Nigerians and there is rarely any top medical institution in the US or Europe where you don’t find Nigerians managing at the top level.

“Hardly a year passes without a major national strike by nurses, doctors, or health consultants. The major reasons for these strikes are poor salaries and lack of government investment in the health sector,” she said.

The lawmaker, however, noted that the absence of a legal framework for the regulation, development and management of Federal Medical Centers to set standards for rendering health services was responsible for hindering the provision of intensive, effective and efficient health care services to the people of Nigeria.

According to her, “this has led to a number of challenges in the health sector including but not limited to under-funding, weak facilities and infrastructure, poor motivation of health workers, low budget, weak accountability, conflicts with the political structure of the states and industrial strikes which has led to inadequacies, shortcomings and weaknesses which hinder effective health care delivery services.”

Contributing to the debate, Senator Yahaya Oloriegbe (APC Kwara Central) said Federal Medical Centres were incapacitated as a result of the absence of legal backing establishing them and insufficient funding.

“We have about twenty-three Federal Medical Centres that were established across the country, but without legal backing.

“The consequence of such is that there are, what I will call policy somersault as regards the operations of these centres.

“You see some of the centres that have enough facilities and manpower to even be termed a Teaching Hospital, but because the legal framework did not state the standard, in terms of infrastructures, manpower and services, they remain like that, and it becomes at the whims and caprices of the policy makers in the Federal Ministry of Health.

“The consequences in terms of funding allocation, Federal Medical Centres receive less fund compared to Teaching Hospitals, the lawmaker said.

On his part, Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah (APC Kebbi South) said the bill was timely as it seeks “to ensure that all institutions of government are governed by law.”

The bill after scaling Second Reading was referred by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, to the Committee on Health chaired by Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe or further legislative work and to report back in four weeks.

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