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The Nigerian Doctor (1): ‘I Love My Country But I Won’t Die In Silence’

As the doctors' strike in Nigeria continues, HumAngle delves into the lives of medical professionals.

Fredrick Brown* (not real name) is one of the many doctors considering leaving Nigeria as the doctors’ strike, which began early Aug. 2021, lingers. It is the fourth time they are going on strike since the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2020, and this resident doctor who works at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Abeokuta, Ogun State, says he has had enough.

Today, Sept. 2, 2021, Brown had to turn down a patient. “I advised him to go to a private hospital when he called,” he tells HumAngle. “The emergency unit in FMC Abeokuta can’t admit patients to a ward.”

To make ends meet, Brown does some consultancy for private hospitals. But this is not a privilege every doctor has. Despite this, he is getting impatient by the day.

“I love Nigeria but I cannot continue to suffer in silence. There is no motivation from the government and even the citizens do not really care about us. Despite COVID-19 and other dangers we are exposed to, our hazard allowance is just N5,000,” Brown laments. 

Brown says despite years spent at the undergraduate and postgraduate level, authorities make “most of us think we wasted our time studying medicine. The money we make is not commensurate with what we are doing.”

“Aside from the fact that we are poorly remunerated, salaries are also irregular. As many people continue to leave the country, the workload on those of us left behind increases. No one can guarantee his or her prospects as a medical doctor in Nigeria. I have friends who have left the country and they share their success stories with us.”

“The truth is I am not proud to be a doctor in Nigeria. Family members think you are rich but truly we are suffering in silence. I feel ashamed when people call me doctor because I don’t have what it takes to be proud of my profession.”

Denied rights?

As a resident doctor, Brown is expected to travel nationwide on fully sponsored trips to write examinations but that is not the case in Nigeria, he alleges. 

“Those sponsorships are not coming because hospitals are not even fulfilling their obligations to the resident doctors. We spend over N300,000 to write exams and we won’t be paid back. This is not supposed to be the case,” he laments.

“Between 2014 and 2016, there are two years of arrears not paid and many of the people have even passed residency but they still need to be paid because they work for it. The introduction of IPPIS has also caused more harm, the capturing for salaries is not accurate. They don’t even come for eight to nine months to capture staff in your hospitals. For that period, you will be earning nothing and you are still expected to carry out your work. So, these are the issues.” 

The sacrifices

Brown’s job has a negative impact on his family. Because it is tasking, he hardly spends enough time with them. “You will read for exams and work. Even with regular payments, we are stressed let alone when nothing is coming,” he says and adds that until their overdue arrears are paid and proper attention is given to health workers, the problem will continue to linger. 

Picture of Federal Medical Centre, Abeokuta. Photo: Wikipedia.

 

“We have thousands of doctors who continue to work but are not paid due to IPPIS failure. If you compare doctors’ earnings to what is obtainable in other countries, you will see that we are being underpaid. We are simply requesting a befitting salary. Government has always played us. They are not interested in our upkeep.” 

‘I will leave Nigeria if I have the opportunity’ 

To satisfy the needs of his family, Brown says he will be proud to join doctors leaving Nigeria for other countries. 

“From my experience, nine out of every 10 doctors want to leave. We feel unappreciated in Nigeria. It is better to leave the country to where you will be appreciated and be able to achieve your obligations. If not, you will just die in silence.”

Currently, one of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s health sector is the migration of personnel in search of a better life. This, to some, translates to higher salaries, access to advanced technology and favourable government policies. 

In early August, Nigeria’s resident doctors went on strike again over irregularities in the payment of salaries to the house officers. 

They are seeking an upward review of the hazard allowance to 50% of consolidated basic salaries of all health workers and payment of the outstanding Covid-19 inducement allowance, especially in state-owned-tertiary institutions.

The doctors are also calling for the abolishment of the exorbitant bench fees being paid by their members in all training institutions across the country.

According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Nigeria is one of the three leading African countries where physicians leave for foreign jobs. This development has led to a drop in the quality of healthcare service due to the absence of skilled personnel.

Despite contrary evidence, employment minister Chris Ngige said Nigeria has surplus doctors, apparently an indication that authorities care less about the happenings around the health sector. 

 


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Adejumo Kabir

Adejumo Kabir is a multiple award-winning investigative journalist. He loves community journalism and supports all public enlightenment. He currently works as Assistant Investigations Editor at HumAngle. He tweets via @AdejumoKabir2

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