Establishing training centres will curb medical tourism, say experts
The increasing number of Nigerians migrating to other parts of the world in search of opportunities to study medicine has continued to interrogate the unwillingness of the government to expand the capacity of the training institutions in country.
This development is even more dumbfounding when there are arrays of public facilities that can easily be upgraded for training purposes.For instance, the National Hospital in Abuja, which was established by Mrs. Maryam Abacha, the wife of late Head of State, Sani Abacha, has gained international status, and is well-primed to offer training in addition to treatment it is renowned for.
However, the institution focuses mainly on the clinical aspect, while the whole aspect of training is neglected. A Chief Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the National Hospital, Dr. Chris Agboghoroma, said: “I believe that the time has come for the establishment of a University of Medical Sciences in Nigeria. If anything, we are lacking behind the rest of the world. If we look around the world, this is the time that Nigeria must take the lead in terms of providing manpower for our health needs.
“If we look at what is happening currently, about 50 per cent of our trained medical professionals are outside of the country. Also, the most unfortunate development is that many of the medical doctors on ground are leaving. Nigeria is not taking advantage of the willingness and qualification to study medicine amongst our youths. Nigeria should focus on training doctors for export.”
He also dispelled the notion that finance could be a major impediment to establishing a University of Medical Sciences, considering the huge cost.
According to him, the issue is not that the government does not have money to train medical personnel, but that the hospital has all the facilities needed to train medical personnel, which has been completely neglected.
Furthermore, he said rivalry among existing teaching hospitals is not as issue, as “The beauty of the proposed school is that it will not train only medical doctors, but medical personnel from laboratory scientists to Nurses, pharmacists and other health workers that would work in the system.”
“Yes, these universities have medical schools and teaching hospitals. But do they have enough capacity for qualified students that are seeking admission to study medicine? What is the percentage of students that our medical schools can accommodate today? Why are Nigerians going to Ukraine and even Ghana here to study medicine? I believe that through expansion of the facilities, Nigeria can train about 500 doctors every year. The fact that many countries come to Nigeria to look for medical doctors shows that our products are of international standard,” he stated.
He therefore urged the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), to encourage the Federal and State governments to establish Universities of Medical Sciences.
A Consultant Clinical Microbiologist at the same National Hospital, Dr. Kenneth Iregbu, hinted that the NMA is not opposed to the establishment of a University of Medical Sciences.
He explained: “Establishing medical universities is now a global phenomenon; so, Nigeria establishing one is not out of context. The call for the establishment of a university of medical sciences is a concept that the Federal Government has accepted because there are a few medical sciences universities in the country.”
He admitted that such medical schools already exist in Benue, Ondo and Rivers states, but are still not enough to fill the yawning gap, adding that “All that is required is to provide the medical school that can feed into the post-graduate programme. The two programmes should be a complete set. If we are talking about medical school, the emphasis is normally on undergraduate medicine.
“If we send our children to nearby countries that are less-endowed to study medicine and ready to pay exorbitant fees, why not develop our own here where students will get the best training with less fees?”
Also, a Consultant and Chief Paediatric Surgeon at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Lokoja, Kogi State, Dr Taiwo Jones Olaoluwa, observed that despite the three existing medical universities, Nigeria needs more because of population explosion, and the quest by students who could not secure slots in the existing schools.
Although students troop out of the country in search of medical training, Dr Olaoluwa noted that this is the exclusive privilege of a few wealthy Nigerians.
He explained: “The cost of training in foreign university is beyond the reach of an average family. The high cost of living and desperation of Nigerians to study medicine have led many Nigerians to lesser countries such as Sudan, Ghana, and Sierra Leone to study medicine.”
He continued: “Health is wealth, and as such, wealthy nations are taking advantage of the quality of our medical personnel. Saudi, UK and the United States are luring a big chunk of our doctors. The nation gains in producing manpower for export, and subsequent cash transfer back to the economy. India benefits from such a huge market.”
Olaoluwa maintained that the manpower needed for the Federal Universities of Medical Sciences when established are available in the country, and will lead to the expansion of entry opportunities for indigent students against the current quota system where even high-performing students find it extremely difficult to gain admission.
Accordingly, he argued that net cash outflow to foreign countries for payment of school fees will reduce, thereby reducing the pressure on the Naira, noting that the major challenge would be the availability of a well-equipped ultra-modern hospital for the University to get accreditation by Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). This was why the Kogi State University did not get accreditation for the study of medical sciences.