Bayelsa State Governor Douye Diri has appealed to medical doctors and other health practitioners to show more patriotism by joining forces with progressive elements in the country to turn around the health sector.
Diri made the appeal on Thursday while declaring open the annual conference of the Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Medical Centre chapter, at the Bayelsa Medical University in Yenagoa.
Commenting on the conference theme, ‘Brain Drain and Residency Training Programme in Nigeria: The Way Forward,’ he urged doctors and other professionals to make necessary sacrifices in building the country.
Represented by his deputy, Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, the governor pointed out that although the government had not done enough in terms of their remuneration and welfare, health personnel ranked among better paid workers in the country.
He insisted that the conditions under which doctors work have relatively improved compared to what was obtainable in the 1980s, expressing optimism that there could be more improvement in the near future.
He stated, “The theme of this conference is quite germane because we have a situation where some of our best health practitioners have left the country. I hope it will help the participants to think critically and make an objective and holistic comparison.
“While I agree substantially with all that he (the Lecturer) has said about the causes of brain drain in our country, I also beg to differ to the extent that, sometimes when you look at another person’s pot for too long, you end up with two things.
“You either end up stealing from the person’s pot or you end up trying to meet up on how to cook like him. Yes, we agree that the conditions in South Africa, the United Kingdom and elsewhere may be better than in Nigeria.
“But can we actually say that our fortune has remained the same over the period especially from 1988 when the issue of health workers’ welfare was taken to the front burner? Yes, it is true that we are not where we ought to be. But definitely we are not where we used to be.
“I want to place on record that, if our salaries as health workers are no longer what they used to be in the past, do we really need to leave this country just because we have not got all that we want, forgetting that the greener pasture we are seeking today is made possible by the sacrifices some people made in the past?
“Today, if you compare what you earn as a doctor with other workers like teachers, policemen, accountants, soldiers and many other professionals, you will agree with me that there is a big difference. So let’s be a little more patriotic and optimistic of the future.”
Diri, who reaffirmed his administration’s commitment towards prioritising issues pertaining to health, highlighted some efforts of the government to improve the welfare of health workers in the state.
According to him, an executive bill on Residency has been sent to the state House of Assembly, which will soon be passed and signed into law to address some of the needs of resident doctors.
In her remarks, wife of the Governor, Dr Gloria Diri, thanked the organisers of the programme and assured resident doctors of her readiness to support them to improve healthcare in the state.
The Bayelsa First Lady, who was represented by the Chief Whip of the state House of Assembly, Ebiuwou Koku-Obiyai, charged the participants to come up with far reaching ideas to help develop the health sector.
Speaking as Chairman of the occasion, the Vice Chancellor of Bayelsa Medical University, Professor Ebitimitula Etebu, represented by his deputy, Prof Paingha Joe-Alagoa, expressed concern over the increasing rate of brain drain and stressed the need to curb it for the greater good of the country.
The conference, which is expected to round off on Sunday next week, featured the presentation of a paper on the theme by the President of the Commonwealth Medical Association, Dr Osahon Enabulele.