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    Saturday, May 20, 2023

    Doctors' Strike Continues, as Group Wants Medical Tourism Addressed

    Nike Adebowale-Tambe

    The association described the unpaid 10-month salaries of health workers as an aberration.

    The National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMDP) has called on the Nigerian government to initiate measures to tackle factors surrounding medical tourism effectively.

    The association made the call in a communique issued at the end of its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held on 14 May in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.

    The President of the association, Sofiri Peterside, said the conviction of Nigeria's former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, his wife, and a medical doctor in the United Kingdom had highlighted the multidimensional issues surrounding medical tourism in Nigeria.

    Mr Peterside said this includes the gap in health infrastructure and the attitude of political officeholders on their preference for healthcare overseas despite the availability of such services in the country.

    "In light of Sen. Ekweremadu's saga, NEC urged the government to initiate measures to tackle the factors surrounding medical tourism effectively, and consider placing some restrictions on political office holders from seeking medical care overseas, especially when such services (both human and infrastructural) are available in the country.

    PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Nigerian politician and the two others were found guilty of organ trafficking in the UK and sentenced to prison.

    They allegedly procured a 21-year-old Nigerian and flew him to the UK to harvest his kidney for their sick daughter. While Ekweremadu got nine years and eight months in prison, the court sentenced his wife, Beatrice, to four years and six months in jail, while the doctor Obeta, was sentenced to 10 years.

    Medical tourism

    Nigerian politicians, including President Muhammadu Buhari, are fond of seeking medical treatment overseas. Contrary to the promise he made to Nigerians to end the practice, the president has embarked on many medical trips since he came into office in 2015.

    The latest of his numerous trips is for toothache treatment in the UK, barely three weeks to the end of his eight-year tenure.

    PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how medical tourism had been estimated to cost Nigeria over N576 billion ($1.2 billion) yearly, a part of that by the Nigerian leader, although the government never discloses the cost of Mr Buhari's medical trips.

    Other issues

    The association urged the government at all levels to increase budgetary allocations to health, improve the welfare of health workers, improve the working conditions and health infrastructure and improve the security of healthcare workers and institutions.

    It also called for the provision of regular inducement packages and other incentives, as these are the essential keys to tackling and reversing the ongoing brain drain in the healthcare sector of our country.

    It said it was important for various state governments to urgently address the welfare issues confronting doctors working under their employ.

    The communique reads in part: "NEC commended the efforts of the government of Ekiti and Delta States in improving the welfare of their healthcare workers and admonished other state governments to follow suit by ensuring domestication of the reviewed hazard allowance, payment of 100 per cent CONMESS, payment of medical residency training grants, prompt payment of salaries/arrears and ensure prompt promotions."

    On Benue, Ondo

    The association also admonished the government of Benue State to show greater political will and commitment by paying the ten months' salary arrears owed doctors and other health workers in the state, describing the development as a gross violation of extant labour laws "for workers to be owed for such a duration."

    It also implored the government of Ondo State to jettison the ongoing payment of enhanced salary structure and revert to payment of CONMESS as applicable in other states.

    The association also declared as unacceptable and condemned the malicious and obnoxious bill seeking to prescribe a five-year mandatory service for Nigerian-trained Doctors.

    It insisted that such a bill should be immediately jettisoned as it violates all known labour laws and infringes on the fundamental rights to freedom of movement.

    "NEC believes that the taxpayers' money should not be wasted in calling for a public hearing on such bill. NEC profoundly commends the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, for standing on the side of truth by strongly condemning the said bill," the association added.

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