Dr Betta Edu, the Director-General, Cross River Primary Healthcare Development Agency, says doctors in Nigeria are the least paid anywhere in the world.
Edu said this in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Calabar.
The director-general who was reacting to a recent statement made by the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, that government should concentrate on implementing policies that would keep our doctors at home instead of encouraging the brain-drain.
She said that doctors should be given better welfare packages for them and their families, good working environment with functional facilities from the Primary Health Centres to the teaching hospitals.
“I want to put it clearly on record, the Minister of Labour and Productivity was wrong, by the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, we need one doctor per 600 persons in a population.
“Even if we churn out the figure we have today 10 times for the next 10 years, we are not going to arrive at what Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires from Nigeria, it is simple mathematics and not about anybody now.
“How many doctors are practicing right now in Nigeria, just 35,000, and most of them are in urban areas, very few of them are practicing in rural areas.
“How are we going to achieve UHC when we are saying that even with the 35,000, that is grossly inadequate, can go for all we care.
“Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pays the house rent of its staff and children’s school fees that is the oil sector; we can do the same for our doctors to keep them to offer services.
“Beyond that, even as a nation, we should be discussing with International Labour Organisation (ILO) to see how we can prevent more people from leaving instead of saying they can go, if they go, how will the health sector in Nigeria work?
“I really don’t blame most of them and the reason is simple, other nations have the ability to pay for services.
“Go and ask how much they pay doctors in Ghana, convert it in dollars and compare it to what they pay doctors in Nigeria,’’ she said.
According to her, every year, countries like the United States, Britain and even Dubai have about 600 doctors sitting for medical examination, how many do we churn out from our medical schools in Nigeria every year.
“In my set, we were only 40 who graduated from my medical school,’’ Betta stressed.
She said more private and public universities should pick up the training of health workers and the criteria for certifying health workers should be made less cumbersome by the boards.
She urged regulatory boards to wake up as it was part of their jobs to go round and ensure that people who were practising have the needed license to do so.
“The state ministries of health have to help the federal ministry of health to go round their states and ensure that people who are practicing in their states are certified.
“Some states have gone ahead to establish Private Hospital Regulatory Boards, these boards should be up and doing to move round and clamp down on quacks.
“And then the media have to help us; you cannot have on Cross River Broadcasting Corporation (CRBC) someone that sells one herbal medicine that cures all ailments, you are simply giving an endorsement to people who are killing us in thousands and millions,’’ she said.
Besides, the director-general noted that Nigeria must pay attention to UHC as presently in Nigeria, only three per cent was insured.
“When we share the risks, we share the benefits,’’ said the official.