By Elizabeth Uwandu
Some Nigerians who studied medicine and dentistry abroad and returned home to practice say they have been left in a lurch: 473 of the 689 ‘baby doctors’, representing the November 2017 batch, say they cannot operate because they were unsuccessful in the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) examination that would have qualified them to do so. The figure represents about 70 per cent of those who sat for the examination administered to prove they had obtained the same level of knowledge as doctors who graduated from universities in Nigeria. Frustrated, the ‘baby doctors’ are alleging victimization and unfavourable treatment by the MDCN under the Acting Registrar, Dr Tajudeen Sanusi.
They accused the Council of lack of coherent preparation in the conduct of the assessment examination even after raising the application form fee by more than 300 per cent and examination fee by almost 100 per cent. The April 2017 set who sat for the examination had paid N1, 200 each for application form and N75, 000 as examination fee whereas those in the November batch paid N5, 000 each for application form and N125, 000 as examination fee.
The doctors had received a 12-week remedial course in Ilorin between August and October 2017 ahead of the examination held on November 8 and 9. According to the candidates who are protesting the high rate of failure in the qualifying examination, the authorities appeared to have shown their bias against foreign trained doctors in the conduct and outcome of the examination. “One would have thought that the money we paid for this programme would have ensured that certain basic facilities were made available for the remedial course which was not the case. I’m surprised we are still at this level in Nigeria. The almost 100 per cent increase in the examination fee was of no use”, one of the affected candidates, Arinze Joseph, told Sunday Vanguard.
Some of the embattled doctors spoke of emotional, physical and psychological torture arising from the mass failure in the examination.
One of them, simply identified as Chinyere, for instance, reportedly stabbed herself on hearing that she was unsuccessful in the test and timely intervention of her friends saved her from the apparent suicide bid.
The outcry of the doctors, under the aegis of the “Movement for Justice for Foreign Trained Doctors, known as MOVT 4 Justice (FTDs) and led by Dr Bashir Isa, climaxed in the intervention of the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Senator Olarenwaju Tejuoso, which forced the MDCN to agree to do a resit for the doctors after its initial refusal. The Council said each candidate will pay N100, 000 for the resit.
Narrating their stories, the aggrieved doctors lamented that they paid thousands of dollars and went through unspeakable hardship studying abroad only to return home to face another round of trouble before being allowed to practice.
“Studying medicine has caused me untold pains but I will not give up”, Isa, the leader of MOVT 4 Justice, who has been the rallying point for his colleagues protesting the MDCN action, told Sunday Vanguard.
According to him, the pains he went through to become a doctor abroad are less than the agony he is suffering now to get licensed to practice medicine in his father’s land.
“Since the result of the MDNC assessment examination was released, I have been exposed to psychological trauma and unable to concentrate on anything positive”, he said.
“My venture into the medical field was born out of passion. After enduring the frustration of studying electrical engineering at Government Technical College, Kano and then being offered statistics at Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria instead of medicine, I started, with the efforts of my father and brother, lectures, on Sept 24, 2011, at the Faculty of Medicine, Sudan International University where I spent around $5,000 annually on tuition, equivalent to two million Naira, and an average of $400 monthly for my upkeep.
“You can imagine the joy on my face in December 2016 after graduating only to face victimization, agony and frustration on returning to Nigeria. This happened after a very difficult experience from 2014-2016 when international students suffered physical and psychological stress because of insecurity and the dollar crisis back home in Nigeria”.
Continuing, the spokesman for MOVT 4 Justice said that apart from the frustration of failing the MDCN examination twice in Lagos and Ilorin, he had spent close to N1million since the MDNC saga started trying to seek redress.
His words, “I have spent close to a million naira since we sat for the MDCN exams in Lagos and Ilorin. The worst part of it all is the intimidation and blackmail that we have been subjected to by the MDCN in the media in spite of our ambition and the sacrifice we made abroad to serve our nation”.
Another of the aggrieved doctors, who gave her name as Zainab and claimed to have studied in Ukraine, said this was the first time of failing an examination and letting her family down.
Her words, “All my life, I have never let my family down. I have never been associated with failure. I always give all that is required to my academic endeavours, knowing I am the first child and a pacesetter. I have raised the standard in my family so much so that my siblings strive to meet up. That was before the MDCN examination. All of a sudden my parents have now forgotten that I was the child who made them smile. My mum cried all night like a baby. All the excuses I brought home were invalid. My father said I didn’t study enough.
“My home was a very loud and happy place where we all sat together and made jokes and laughed. Now I can’t face my parents, always trying to avoid them, hiding in my room day and night”.
Meanwhile the resit examination for the aggrieved foreign trained doctors has been scheduled for between February 28 and March 2.
The development came just as the candidates say they have no confidence in the neutrality of Sanusi, the MDCN Acting Registrar, to oversee the conduct of the resit on the grounds that he is biased against foreign trained doctors. They want a neutral body to oversee the resit while also challenging the fees to be paid for registration, lack of standardized syllabus, absence of cut off marks and lack of remedial course before the resit. The doctors equally want the Acting Registrar and anyone connected to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital to be out of the picture.
Speaking on the demands, one of the ‘baby doctors’, Adam Ibrahim, said, “We should write that exam (resit) only if a new body sets the questions and moderates. Let the test be standardized; there must be a curriculum or syllabus. Let there be a benchmark set for passing. No negative marking. The result of the CBT should be released to us immediately we finish the exam; the collation should be done by a neutral body to be raised by the authorities if possible; and the external supervisor should not be those currently at the helm of affairs at the MDCN. The results should be released by the organizers of the exam in the centre where it is written before MDCN publishes on their website. And they should reduce the registration fee for the resit exam to half of the N75, 000 it was before Sanusi came”.
Efforts to speak with the MDCN Ag Registrar on the foreign trained doctors’ case were unsuccessful as he did not pick phone calls or reply text messages.