By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Folalumi Alaran
The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that the federal government considers the health sector as one of the key priority areas that will help achieve the goal of alleviating poverty among Nigerians.
Ehanire, who spoke at the induction ceremony of 879 foreign trained medical and dental graduates held at the Medical and Dental Council Of Nigeria (MDCN) in Abuja, said that the federal government has started implementing a strategy towards the realization of President Muhammadu Buhari’s June 12 promise to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years.
According to Ehanire, the health sector was charged with the priority area of Human Capital Development (HCD) to improve health outcomes among other deliverables.
In order to achieve this, the minister said the federal government has set nine deliverable targets in the health sector for the second tenure of the President Buhari-led administration.
He said the priority areas include:
mandatory and universal health insurance in collaboration with state governments and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) administration; operationalization of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) in collaboration with relevant agencies and partners; and recruitment and deployment of Community Health Extension Workers.
Other priority areas, he said, are revamping federal teaching hospitals across the country; collaborating with private sector investors to establish high quality hospitals in Nigeria; reducing gaps in all health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by at least 60 per cent; reducing current imbalance between primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare.
Ehanire further said that the federal government plans to actively collaborate with the private sector to create a large number of well-paying jobs for Nigerian youths through increase investment in the health sector.
In addition, Ehanire said the federal government envisions universal coverage of healthcare so as to make healthcare services accessible and affordable to all Nigerians, irrespective of social status.
“Today’s induction is significant in that 879 practitioners will be added to the group of medical personnel that are already working to actualise this vision,” he said.
MDCN said that a total of 879 doctors were successful at the June 2021 assessment examinations organized by the MDCN at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.
Out of the 879 foreign trained doctors inducted at Thursday’s ceremony, 862 are medical doctors, while 17 are dentists.
The minister said that the Federal Ministry of Health and the Budget Office of the Federation have approved in this year’s budget funds for the payments of house officers by the MDCN effective from January 2021.
He said MDCN is now charged with the posting, placement and payment of the house officers to ensure equitable availability of spaces for housemanship training on a first come first served basis.
The Registrar of MDCN, Dr. Tajudeen Sanusi, drew the attention of the newly inducted medical doctors to the existence of disciplinary organs within the council which punishes doctors found wanting in the discharge of their duties.
He said that apart from the disciplinary panels which receive and investigate allegations of malfeasance against doctors, there is also the tribunal that has powers to suspend or delist those found guilty of an offence.
Sanusi described the ongoing nationwide strike by the doctors under the auspices of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) as very unfortunate.
He said that MDCN is not owing any house officer his salary as at July 2021, adding that if anyone is owed, the problem will be from the respective the teaching hospitals.
He told the inducted graduates that by MDCN policy, house officers are advised not to allow their membership of the NARD or any other association to affect their posting.
According to Sanusi, the house officers are to spend 12 uninterrupted weeks of training on each stage of the posting, adding that anyone that wants to resign midway must refund monies he or she was paid so far.
Speaking at the induction ceremony, the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said the National Assembly will work with the Executive arm to provide funds that will enable MDCN to conduct independent assessment examination on the doctors without depending on any other institution.
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Folalumi Alaran