Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) has called for engagement of doctors primarily at local centres.
In an interview in his office in Calabar, chairman of NMA in Cross River State, Dr Felix Archibong, said “We want to advocate for greater investments in the primary healthcare sector. “
He said more doctors should be engaged to oversee the clusters of health centres with better benefit packages to avert what he called local brain drain where people run to urban centres.
” I also advocate for security for these health workers. When communal clashes erupt, many health workers are hardly distinguished. In this regard, health professionals become vulnerable.”
Speaking further, Archibong called for modification of primary healthcare services and adoption of the Primary Medical Care (PMC) method introduced by onetime Health Minister Prof Ransome Kuti and adopted by Lagos State government.
He particularly called on Cross River State to revisit and modify their Primary Healthcare.
He explained that the PMC allows engagement of doctors at the primary health-care centres and catered for by local government councils.
“Even at the primary healthcare level there should be doctors employed by the state government to attend to patients at that level. This helps to discourage patients going to tertiary institutions like what happens in calabar where patients with minor ailment like malaria move to Teaching Hospital. That is not supposed to be the design in today’s world.
“What ought to be is for health services to be taken to the people, which is at the primary health centres.
“To the best of my knowledge, I doubt that in Cross River State the primary healthcare agency has doctors working at healthcare centres.
“That has created a lacuna where people have to travel a very long distance to the cities where we have general hospitals or private clinics for treatment. This creates a lot of delays before patients can access medical attention.
” If we had adopted the modified Primary medical Care where doctors are available there would have been no need to travel from Obanliku to Calabar for seven hours, for instance. So such cases would have been handled at that level without the hassles of travelling long distance to look for doctor.
Archibong emphasized on importance of motivation. He said medical personnel especially midwives and nurses should be give better in entices to encourage them to work at primary health centres in local communities.
“Everyone wants a better life. In developed countries, in order to encourage medical personnel to work in rural areas, they are given incentives. Some personnel living in urban centres with family may not be comfortable for their children to go to schools in rural areas. some would think they will be operating two homes.
“That is extra costs for the health workers. So if we want it to work in our setting, we have to look at better incentives to attract these workers. Primary health centres are supposed to be under the local government councils.
“We are advocating better, attractive incentives to encourage them.”
Speaking about exodus of doctors from the state, Archibong confirmed that 50 doctors have so far left the state from both federal and state owned facility in less than two years to go and seek greener pastures in other local and international institutions.
He confirmed that 20 doctors only are remaining in the employ of Cross River State health facilities.
He described Brain Drain in the health sector in Nigeria as an epidemic, calling on state government to rise and employ more doctors to serve in the primary health centres.
He explained that after the covid 19, many countries lost their doctors and as a result, vacuums were created for other doctors to move and occupy spaces left by those doctors.
He said doctors from his state had seized on the beckoning opportunities where environments were made conducive.
“In NMA, Cross River State, we have lost no fewer than 50 doctors within one to two years to other countries where they think they can work without much stress and greater benefits.
“These losses are between the federal and state employments in the state.”
“We want to advocate for government to employ more doctors and other health workers and engage them in the rural areas to enable citizens access health services at that level so as to discourage risky and long journeys to Calabar.