By Steve Oko
No fewer than two medical doctors leave Abia State every month in search of greener pastures abroad, the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, has revealed.
Chairman of the association, Abia State, Dr. Chimezie Okwuonu, who made the revelation, weekend, during the celebration of his six years of stewardship, said the ugly trend was having a serious impact on healthcare delivery system in the state.
He passionately appealed to the state government to quickly address the lingering issues of the welfare of doctors at the Abia State University Teaching Hospital, ABSUTH, Aba, and their counterparts at the Health Management Board, who have been on strike over unpaid wages.
While noting the efforts of the government to liquidate outstanding arrears, the outgoing NMA boss attributed the exodus of medical personnel from the state to some of the unaddressed concerns raised by the medical body.
“I want to sincerely appeal to Government to pay more attention to the health sector to avoid brain drain.
“Two to three doctors leave Abia every month for Saudi Arabia where they are paid about six times their salary per month.
“Regular payment of salaries will help reduce brain drain among doctors. We need the political will and commitment to move the health sector forward”.
The NMA boss also renewed the call for the release of Dr. Uwadinachi Iweha who was abducted over a month ago by unknown gunmen still holding him captive despite the payment of ransom.
Dr. Okwuonu who said he decided to hold the event to render an account of his stewardship in fulfillment of his promise while seeking election, tasked leaders at all levels on accountability and integrity which, he maintained, remained the hallmark of leadership.
He identified some of the achievements recorded under his watch as the purchase of land for the NMA Umuahia zone; advancement in the building of the event centre and secretariat complex of Abia NMA; and advocacy to Abia State Government that led to the rehabilitation of the access road to ABSUTH Aba.
Others were: advocacy leading to the building of a new medical complex at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike; advocacy to MOUAU that led to the correction of placement of doctors in the CONMESS salary scale, adjustment of entry point, and normal promotion along the CONMESS scheme; among others.
In their goodwill messages, the Speaker of Abia State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Chinedum Orji; Professor Ike Nwachukwu of Michael Okpara University Umudike Medical extension; among other dignitaries described Okwuonu as “a go-getter”, an exceptional leader.