A medical doctor in a tertiary hospital in Nigeria has bemoaned the salary scale of health workers in the country, especially at a time when the world is battling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

He alleged that doctors who are front-line health workers earn almost nothing compared to staff members of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

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He told SaharaReporters that people in the companies who do "almost nothing" earn a lot of money as salary and other extra bonuses such as the 13th month while doctors get none of such.

He said, "Before the pandemic, the hazard allowance for a health worker in Nigeria was just N5, 000, very poor. When the pandemic started, we had to negotiate a revised hazard allowance which the government paid for three months. The revised hazard allowance was just 50% of our basic salary and we received this hazard allowance for three months — April, May, June last year. They then returned to paying N5, 000 as hazard allowance, even till now.

"The basic salary for a medical doctor in some of the tertiary hospitals ranges from between N240, 000 to N450, 000 and it takes like 5 to 7 years to get to the level where you can earn N450, 000. Our remuneration is very poor, especially in this pandemic."

He explained that the rate of brain drain is high among Nigerian medical doctors to other countries due to the welfare packages available for doctors in those countries compared to the situation in Nigeria.

"When you go to other countries, you see the welfare packages they have for their doctors working during the pandemic. They even work shifts because they don't want them to be exposed and they pay them more and not only that, social welfare packages are included, incentives that we as doctors in Nigeria do not have. That's why you see a large number of doctors migrating to countries like Saudi Arabia, UK, and many other countries that treat us better than Nigeria. 

"Doctors get exposed daily to COVID-19 patients yet our hazard allowance is just N5, 000. We know it's a service to humanity but we have families that we have to take care of. The average doctor in Nigeria is not well paid. There are doctors that are being owed salaries, like our colleagues in some states like Ondo, Kogi, Abia states.

"Remuneration for an average Nigerian doctor is very poor and our junior colleagues who are coming up just want to leave this country. Some of us who decided to stay back are beginning to regret it because in the United Kingdom, by the time you work for two years, you can take a mortgage and get your house, and a car but in Nigeria, what can a doctor who has worked for 2 years show for it? I can tell you some of my colleagues who started work two years ago, without a car have not been able to afford a car even as at now.

"The doctor does not go to the market and the price of things get lower. The inflation in the economy has affected everyone. Can a doctor really afford to pay the exorbitant school fees for a child in private universities? How many doctors can afford to do that? They have been living from hand to mouth.

"And then we have people who work in some government parastatals that are paid for doing almost nothing, they say they are income generating agencies e.g CBN, NNPC. I think we need to ask people who work in such places what they earn and the criteria, the basis on which they earn those amounts of money. The government does not pay 13th month to doctors but people in these agencies get paid for 13th month and in the beginning of the year, they pay them a lump sum, they call it different kinds of allowance, but the doctors do not get that. This is a country where we manage life, work every day, until you decide to go on leave. In some hospitals, you can't even go on leave because they are short-staffed.

"Our remuneration is very poor. In the United States, someone who just finished from medical school, an intern, earns close to $4, 000 (about N1.5 million), when he becomes a consultant, that salary can be increased to $12, 000 (about N4.5 million) in a month. That's a verifiable fact.

"In the UK, if you are not a resident doctor, you can earn as much as £4, 000 (about N2.1 million) to £6, 000 (about N3.1 million) although after tax it may reduce and if you are a consultant, you can earn as high as £10, 000 (about N5.2 million). When you compare our pay to that of doctors in other countries, you'll discover we are underpaid and that's why those countries want Nigerian doctors."

He stated that the Nigerian system is short-changing itself by underpaying medical doctors who get discouraged and leave the country.

He said the country trains doctors at a subsidised rate and rather than enjoy the dividends, it discourages the doctors who go on to serve other countries.

"I attended a private university, let me say I paid so much but there are some people who paid about N10, 000 per year to train as doctors in Nigeria some years back. There is no country in the world that does not spend an average of $15, 000 (about N5.7 million) to train a medical doctor. In the UK, medical training is very expensive. That's why you see many Indians, Pakistani and Nigerian doctors in the UK because they discourage their people from doing medicine as it's expensive but in Nigeria, we train cheaply

"We train our doctors and then they go to work in other countries. Nigeria is cheating herself. If you pay N500, 000 in Nigeria yearly to train as a doctor, it is still subsidised compared to what they pay elsewhere and when you want to give back to your own country, you are discouraged.

"People who train in Ukraine, Arabian countries and so on pay a lot yet it is still way cheaper to train in those countries than in the UK.  What we want to fight for is for hazard allowance paid to us as COVID hazard allowance should continue. Giving us half of our basic salary as hazard allowance should continue.

"Nigerian doctors go through a lot in terms of remuneration. There are doctors who borrow to pay their children's school fees, there are doctors that if they don't get paid at the end of the month, they are close to penury.

"This is almost unbelievable but that is the situation the Nigerian doctor has found himself."

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