PHYSICIANS of Nigerian origin practicing abroad have given the Federal Government some conditions under which they can transfer their services home, among which include granting them low interest loans and high reduction in tariff of transportation of medical equipment into the country. But the Senate swiftly advised them to seek request for the former from the governments of America and the United Kingdom as according to it, Nigeria lacks such financial strength.
Speaking yesterday, during a courtesy call on the Senate Committee on Health, the medical practitioners under the aegis of Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas, ANPA, said they had intention of moving their trade back home given what they called “ineffective medical health care” in Nigeria but being prevented by the issues listed.
The physicians, who spoke through their National President, Nkem Chukwumerije,said they had passion to return and work for their fatherland but lamented that government was not doing enough to encourage their relocation. Chukwumerije listed poor remuneration, inadequate modern equipment to work with, and lack of low interest loans for those who want to set up medical facilities in Nigeria, among others, problems hindering their return. “The major barrier preventing the relocation of medical doctors back to Nigeria is incentive. Every human character and behaviour are linked to incentives. Some of the incentives to get back the medical doctors abroad to Nigeria, are not in place. “Most of us here love our country and our hearts are in Nigeria but we just have to be physically at another country but we are very passionate about improving healthcare system here but the incentives especially finance, remuneration sends people out and force them to remain abroad. “Another thing is lack of proper equipment to work with. Most people abroad honestly want to come back but to physically relocate, we will need the right financial incentives. “The Federal Government should provide low interest loans for healthcare, so that medical practitioners abroad could bring their money and have access to low interest loans. “Majority of our people wanted to come back home but they cannot finance the relocation process and the cost of setting up modern medical facilities in Nigeria. To bring in medical equipment is expensive because of the customs tarriff and other fees. “Government need to reduce the tarriff so that our people can bring in the equipment. The government should also give us the opportunity to work in a structured arrangements with the federal, states and local governments, and also with private sector without barriers”, he said.
Speaking at the occasion the committee’s chairman, Senator Lanre Tejuosho, expressed the commitment of the federal government to address the issue of Nigerian doctors who are relocating abroad in droves for greener pastures as according to him, the country loses over a billion dollar annually to medical tourism. He said the government wa also determined to reverse the trend starting with the ANPA members who he urged to take advantage of the technology they are using in America to consult for doctors in Nigeria. He, however, urged the medical practitioners to take the advantage of the low interest loans available in their country of residence to access finance because the country currently lacked the financial capability to grant such request. “For instance we have a lot of MRS scan machines all over Nigeria but unfortunately, most of our doctors in Nigeria cannot interpret the images. We still need you in this regard especially since you are very experienced in the use of this equipment, to tell us what the images are saying. “We can do the investigation in Nigeria, do the process and through technology send it to you in the United States and within 30 minutes, you will send the result back to us. “This is one of the reasons why we want to come to you for a sacrificial service because we cannot afford to pay you.