The Suspension Of Medical Education; A Time Bomb Waiting To Explode – Dr. Yaji I

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Tuesday, January 12, 2021 The Suspension of Medical Education; A Time Bomb Waiting to Explode – Dr. Yaji Ibrahim Obel 12th January, 2021 As the world is undergoing a serious global health crisis due to the outbreak of the covid-19 which started towards the end of 2019 but was officially declared a pandemic in early 2020, Nigeria as a country is undergoing an educational crisis simultaneously. After The ban on educational institutions were lifted late last year, public institutions were left with the issue of strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to deal with and the matter dragged until 24th December when both the federal government and the union reached a compromise and they called off the prolonged strike, as the strike was ending the second wave of the covid-19 came in and the federal government had to start making arrangement to curb the spread the infection again. The tenure of the presidential task force was extended immediately and the daily briefings resumed with increased daily testing capacity, more measures had to be put in place including indefinite resumption of schools to ensure Nigerians adhere to the covid-19 protocols. I am particularly worried about the way federal government have handled medical education from beginning of the pandemic till date, at the onset of the pandemic many countries especially in the Europe immediately graduated their 5th and 6th year medical students so as to add to their health work force so as to ensure they cope well during the crisis, and to avoid the worst that could happen in such times. While other countries of the world made efforts and put in place different strategies to ensure medical education never stopped because it is obvious no one knows when the pandemic would end, so it was important the pipeline of the medical sector keeps flowing. During the lock down last year several countries kept graduating medical doctors but the case in Nigeria was totally different. After the lockdown was relaxed and schools were granted the permission to resume and only private universities were able to resume and at the moment only 5 Private Universities have been fully licensed to graduate medical doctors they include Bingham University, Afe Babalola University, Bowen University, Igbinedion University and Babcock University. These institutions already had students in final year class and they quickly completed their postings and took their final examinations and graduated their students. Some state governments saw the dangers in the suspension of medical education and immediately initiated some discussions with ASUU in their various state universities to allow medical students resume to ensure the avert shortage of man power at the long run. Nigeria is already facing a massive exodus of health care workers, currently about an average of 12 doctors leave Nigeria weekly, this is in addition to the already poor doctor to patient ration which is about 1:6000 as against the 1:600 as described by the WHO. The quotas allocated to the private universities listed above are far lesser than what is allocated to public universities, like my Alma Matter Bingham University for instance, our quota is currently 50 medical students per class and likewise most of the private universities as against the 75 to 150 allocated to most public universities, so the turnover is always smaller from the private universities than what the public universities can produce at a go. I have followed all the actions and steps taken by the federal government from the beginning of the pandemic till date, I am yet to see any plan by the government about medical education and it is worrisome because it is just a matter of time, by the end of the first quarter of the year there would a serious crisis in the health sector especially for the internship program which is a vital component of the health care system. This is because most interns would be completing their program around that time and so there would be a lacuna which cannot be filled in since no fresh graduates in ground, this would result to chaos. At this point in time it is important the federal government makes alternative plans to ensure medical education continues, regardless of the ongoing surge of confirmed covid-19 cases medical students have to resume school, this because they are already familiar with safety protocols as described by the NCDC and as future health care workers there is no point shying away from the hazards of the professional. The federal government must engage the ministry of Education, NUC, University Authorities and relevant stake holders to get our medical students back to classes, and moving forward I would also want to recommend that ASUU should find a way to exempt our colleges of health sciences in all public universities from any strike action, this because we can’t any further damage to medical education in Nigeria as we already short staffed. The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Medical and Dental Consultants Association (MDCAN) with other relevant medical bodies must rise up to the occasion to save medical education at the moment, we cannot afford the disaster awaiting us as a country. Already many internship centers are short staffed of interns and even the doctors produced by private universities are not enough to meet up with these demands, so the need to get medical students back to class cannot be over emphasized. In addition to medical students, the federal government must ensure other student health workers are back classes as well because doctors alone cannot do the work, all nursing schools, medical laboratory science schools, pharmacy schools, radiography, and optometry students must return to class. This must be done as soon as possible because we don’t even know when the pandemic would end. In conclusion, I know I might have sounded bias in my submission because I am a medical doctor but then health matters is a matter of life and death, thus health systems must be kept running without interruption since no one knows who can would require health services any time. My apologies to other students who I could not a make a case for in this piece, I meant no bias at all. I was just concerned about what is matters of life and death at the moment. The federal government must rise to avert a disaster about to happen. May God bless the federal republic of Nigeria. #copied

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