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NMA, CMA react as US woos Nigerian doctors, others

The Nigerian Medical Association and the Commonwealth Medical Association have reacted to the United States’ offer of employment to medical professionals willing to help in the treatment of coronavirus patients in the US.

The President of the NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile, said 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 health workers comfortable for them to stay in Nigeria.

The President of the CMA, 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.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, Faduyile said if doctors were well treated, they wouldn’t bother to travel abroad.

He, however, cautioned doctors who might want to leave the country to be sure they would be protected and that the condition of service would be in their interest before they left.

He said, “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, Faduyile cautioned doctors intending to grab the US’ offer, saying although the offer might sound interesting presently, it might turn sour if they (doctors) were not “protected.”More in Home

“So, my advice to Nigerians is that they have to be careful because this is a time of war. And in a time of war, if they recruit you into the military, certainly, you would be on the battlefield and you would likely be in the area that is the most difficult. So, if they want to go, they should be sure of what they would meet there,” he warned.

Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the US Government had on Thursday 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.

“We encourage medical professionals with an approved US non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor programme (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment,” the US Department of State said in a statement on its website.

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.

Clarifying the statement further on Friday, the US Embassy Nigeria said in a Facebook post that only medical professionals with previously approved H or J petition would receive emergency visa appointments.

The announcement came as the US became the country with the highest number of persons diagnosed with COVID-19.

As of 9 pm on Friday, the US had surpassed Italy and China in the number of coronavirus cases, with over 100,000 persons being infected. Over 1,500 patients had died.

This was as the number of cases worldwide hit over 589,000, with around 27,000 deaths. More than 132,000 patients had, however, recorded.

In Nigeria, there were 70 COVID-19 cases. Three had recovered while one had died, according to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

Incidentally, as hundreds of doctors in Abuja and Cross River State went on strike last week over non-payment of salaries, the US Embassy Nigeria said medical workers with previously approved H or J petition would receive emergency visa appointments.

Following this development, the Commonwealth Medical Association has also called on the Federal Government to do everything possible to retain its health workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to one of our correspondents, the President of the CMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, said, “It is the responsibility of every country to decide what means and measures it wishes to use in addressing the current pandemic.

“If the Nigerian government understands and appreciates the fact that the dearth of health care professionals is a challenge in Nigeria, 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.

“In my tour of some of the isolation centres and health facilities, I saw that health workers were giving their best in spite of the deficiencies. They voiced their concerns and we keep reassuring them that it’s our country and we should do whatever we can to support the current efforts of the government.”

Enabulele said in the light of the various donations by individuals and corporate organisations, the government should prioritise the welfare of the health workers.

“If more leave at this time, we are in for trouble. The rising cases are alarming already. That is why the government should introduce some incentives to retain them,” he added.

Similarly, the President of the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives, AbdlRauf Adeniji, said it was time for the Nigerian government to review and improve on its attitude towards the terms of engagement of health workers and their work environment.

He said, “In Nigeria, the condition of service is appalling. People who are working in Nigeria are doing it as a calling. That is why we have always advised the government to make the condition of service attractive. However, during a pandemic, no work environment is conducive.

“The government has a role to play to entice health care workers. We have always submitted demands to the government. An enabling environment, which will include infrastructure, policy, reliable tenure of job and satisfactory retirement plan are needed to win workers’ loyalty.”

Even though health professionals in Nigeria have always protested over poor welfare, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in 2019 boasted that Nigeria had more than enough doctors and those who were dissatisfied were free to leave the country.

“Who said we don’t have enough doctors? We have more than enough. You can quote me. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out.

“When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here. Yes, we have foreign exchange earnings from them and not just oil,” Ngige had said

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