- By Luminous Jannamike – Abuja
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has said the Federal Government cannot stop the migration of medical doctors away from Nigeria because of limited available opportunities within the country and the belief among health practitioners that the medical profession is more lucrative abroad.
The Minister, who stated this in an interview with CNBC Africa which was monitored by Vanguard in Abuja, however, noted that many doctors who left the country in the past were returning home with the badly needed knowledge and skills either permanently or in medical missions.
Ehanire said: “We are doing what we can from stop them (doctors) from leaving. But we are also getting so many who come back which is good news because they return with knowledge and skill which are badly needed here.
“We know the opportunities available right now in the country do not arise for all of them. But even if you provide the opportunities for all of them, there are those who will still think there is a bigger box outside the country, and we can’t stop or restrict their movement. Many of those who leave the country are attracted by bigger money outside.”
On increasing the federal government’s budgetary allocation for health, the Minister said the country cannot get all the money it needs for healthcare under the present administration because of its focus on security and food security amongst other competing needs.
According to him, “We asked for more money (from National Assembly). We have also lobbied them for more money (in the 2020 budget).
“But, in government, we must understand that hardly any healthcare system can get all the money it needs, particularly in our country where there are many competing needs. At the same time, we are looking at mobilising resources from the private sector.”
On making health insurance mandatory for all Nigerians, the Minister said a Bill to that effect is currently awaiting presidential assent, highlighting the need for health insurance at the community level.
“We have a population of about 200 million with facilities that are not very well spread. We have a national health insurance scheme which covers largely the formal sector. That is about five percent (of the population).
“But there is a bill awaiting signing by the President to make health insurance compulsory, which should increase the pool of resources available for delivering health service.
“There are also conversations about creating community health insurance. We are working with state governments to diversify the sources of funding. We also believe that community participation will encourage contribution which adds to the pool (of resources),” he said.