Medical Officers’ Brain Drain: Okowa, Enabulele proffer solution

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Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa, Governor Delta State

Vice-Presidential Candidate of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Governor of Delta, Sen Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, and President of World Medical Association, Dr Osahon Enabulele, have said that improvement on emolument and working environment would reverse the preponderance of brain-drain of medical personnel from the country.

They made this known in their separate remarks at the opening of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) National Executive Council Meeting and Leadership Retreat in Asaba, on Wednesday.

They expressed optimism that resolutions from the NEC meeting, with the theme “Doctors and Effective Leadership in the Health Sector” would also proffer more solutions to resolving the issue and others plaguing the medical profession and healthcare delivery.

Reacting to the request for replacement of medical workers who left for greener pastures abroad, Okowa said he had given approval to fill the vacancies.

According to him, it is painful that people are leaving the country due to poor conditions. We cannot stop them, but the vacancies created by such exits should be filled; I have given the approval that they should be replaced so that we don’t over-labour those left behind.

“I have long given approval to the Commissioner for Health that all doctors and medical professionals who exits the services of the state should be replaced immediately.

“No doubt, the economic fortunes of a nation are closely intertwined with the status of the health of its people. But, to remain economically buoyant as a nation, we have to ensure that our health sector is not plagued with daunting challenges.

“Although we have achieved some milestones in health as a nation, the healthcare system of our country is beset with the current problem of brain-drain.

“It is worrisome that our medical doctors who are expected to provide care for those who are ill among us, are leaving the shores of our country in droves.

“I feel this is a very key issue facing us as a nation and we should look into ways of stemming this ugly tide as we will continue to lose our medical professionals to other countries abroad if urgent measures are not adopted.

“It is a national challenge, which demands the collective attention of all, and among other reasons, is especially the desire to earn more money. There are also some complaints about the working environment and inadequate equipment,” he said.

Okowa said that his administration had built new hospitals and provided modern hospital equipment to meet with current realities.

“In Delta State, we have tried to tackle some of these challenges by carrying out extensive renovations of most of our health facilities in all the three tiers of government
across the State.

“In addition, we have largely replaced old, worn-out and obsolete medical equipment with new ones in virtually all the health facilities in the State.

“We have also built new hospitals; an example is Asaba Specialist Hospital, which is providing tertiary-level services in the State, including the Delta State University Teaching Hospital at Oghara. Others include the Advanced Diagnostics Medical Centre and Mother and Child Centre in Owa-Alero.

“Their medical equipment are state-of-the-art and these facilities will also serve as referral centres providing tertiary-level health services in the State and indeed, the entire country.

“They have been provided with all necessary amenities, including a very conducive environment and attractive working conditions for staff.

“I am proud to add that Delta State is one of the very few in the Federation to domesticate the Medical Residency Training Act of 2017 in all our health institutions where residency training is being done,” he stated.

On his part, Dr Enabulele said that there was a need to have effective leadership that would address the myriad of issues confronting the health sector in the country.

He called for concerted efforts to address the issue of brain drain, saying “we must ensure that we walk the talk in terms of leadership.”

Enabulele described Governor Okowa as an exemplar of good leadership, and wished that the medical profession and Nigeria had more persons like him.

Chairman of the occasion, Professor Sam Oyovbaire, recalled the role of the NMA in the past and urged them to wake up and contribute their best to rebuild the nation’s health sector.

He commended Governor Okowa for his impact in the health sector of the state, especially with the state’s contributory health insurance scheme.

In his address, the President of the association, Dr. Uche Ojinmah, expressed appreciation to the Federal Government and some state governments, including Delta, for paying the new hazard allowance, adding that the Delta blazed the trail in paying the new allowance and many others.

Ojinmah called on other state governments in the country that were yet to commence payment of the allowance to do so to maintain industrial harmony in their health care sectors.

According to him, the quest for the long overdue upward review of CONMESS has been reinvigorated and shall not wane until the goal is achieved.

The NMA boss stressed that the grief of the long-suffering Nigerian doctor must meet a relief quickly to avert a total acquisition of escape velocity also known as ‘Japa’.

He said the NMA was passing through a lot of turbulence as a result of loss of standards and derision of merit in the society, and urged members to be of good cheer in the discharge of their duties.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Chairman of NMA in Delta, Dr. Carter Okolakpa, had expressed appreciation to Governor Okowa for the immense support his administration had offered the association.

Okolakpa appealed to the governor to declare an emergency on the replacement of medical doctors and other healthcare workers who had left the service of the state.

This, he said, would reduce the stress the doctors and health workers were passing through due to manpower shortage.

In his remarks, the Asagba of Asaba, Obi Prof. Chike Edozien, who was represented by Chief Chris Chukwurah, called for a strong leadership in the country that would address the challenges be-devilling all sectors of the nation, adding that the problem in the country was failure of government to implement well-articulated policies and programmes.

The Asagba, who is a medical doctor, wished participants fruitful deliberations.

During the ceremony, Prof. Clement Osime of the University of Benin, who delivered a lecture titled “Doctors and Effective Leadership in the Health Sector,” stressed the need for medical practitioners to put in their best in the discharge of their duties.

He also tasked the medical doctors on leadership, saying it was important for them to be good leaders so as to be good mentors and motivators.

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