Dr Betta Edu, Director-General, Cross River State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCA), says medical doctors in Nigeria are lesser paid than their colleagues in some African countries.

Edu, who was reacting to comments by Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, stated that the country clearly lacks the number of medical doctors to meet with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) recommendations.

“I want to put it clearly on record, the Minister of Labour and Productivity was wrong. By the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, we need one doctor per 600 persons in a population," he told NAN.

“Even if we churn out the figure we have today 10 times for the next 10 years, we are not going to arrive at what Universal Health Coverage (UHC) requires from Nigeria. It is simple mathematics and not about anybody now.

“How many doctors are practising right now in Nigeria? Just 35,000 — and most of them are in urban areas. Very few of them are practising in rural areas. How are we going to achieve UHC when we are saying that even the 35,000 doctors that are grossly inadequate can go for all we care.”

Betta said the government must improve the welfare of doctors to meet global standards, arguing that medical practitioners should be encouraged to stay in the country rather than allowed to leave.

“Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pays the house rent of its staff and children’s school fees that is the oil sector; we can do the same for our doctors to keep them to offer services,” she said.

“Beyond that, even as a nation, we should be discussing with International Labour Organisation (ILO) to see how we can prevent more people from leaving instead of saying they can go; if they go, how will the health sector in Nigeria work?

“I really don’t blame most of them and the reason is simple; other nations have the ability to pay for services. Go and ask how much they pay doctors in Ghana, convert it in dollars and compare it to what they pay doctors in Nigeria.”

The DG of CRSPHCA called on the state government to enforce the laws guiding medical practitioners to ensure all doctors are licensed and fully certified.

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