MEDICAL bodies have reacted to attempts by the US to woo Nigerian doctors and health workers saying that the country needs all the experts and professionals it has to mount its own fightback against coronavirus.
Affecting a total of 537,331 in 199 countries, the coronavirus pandemic started off in China but after a few weeks, Italy became its epicentre. As of today, however, the US has taken the lead with 104,256 affected people, compared with 81,394 in China and 86,498 in Italy, although the Italians still top the list when it comes to fatalities.
As a result, the US is relaxing visa rules for Nigerian doctors with a view to wooing them to help cope with the pandemic. However, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA) have condemned this approach and called on the Nigerian government to respond to this by improving the working conditions of health workers so they do not have to leave the country.
NMA president Dr Francis Faduyile, said, however, he does acknowledge the fact that people, including doctors, had the right to work anywhere they pleased. He, however, called on the Nigerian government to do the needful by strengthening the health system and making workers comfortable enough for them to stay in Nigeria.
CMA president Dr Osahon Enabulele, also called on the federal government to do everything possible to retain its health workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. He added that if doctors were well treated, they would not bother travelling abroad.
Dr Enabulele said: If the Nigerian government understands and appreciates the fact that the dearth of health care professionals is a challenge, especially in the face of this pandemic, it needs to do something to equalise what the US is offering them. The government should institute very attractive incentives and do everything possible to retain its professionals, especially those at the forefront of attending to the patients.
“I think it’s a matter of need to drive what I call equipoise with the kind of pool factor that has been introduced by the US government. It is the responsibility of every country to decide what means and measures it wishes to use in addressing the current pandemic.”
Dr Faduyile added: “If Nigerian doctors are well taken care of, many of them would prefer to stay but if they are not well taken care of, I see some difficulties in anybody telling them to stay. Again, everybody has a fundamental right to travel or move anywhere to practise.
“I’m a medical doctor and I’d like doctors to stay in Nigeria, however, what has the government put in place to make its employees comfortable? I know we have many doctors and other health professionals who want to work in this country, so if the government does the needful, they may not have any reason to leave.
“Doctors and medical workers who are not gainfully employed or who are being owed salaries must find ways to fend for themselves.” However, Dr Faduyile cautioned doctors intending to grab the US’ offer, saying although the offer might sound interesting presently, it might turn sour if they were not protected.
On Thursday, the US asked medical professionals with an approved non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition from across the world, including Nigeria, to approach the nearest embassy and apply for a work visa. In addition, the US added that foreign medical professionals already in the country could have their visas extended one year at a time for up to seven years.