The President of the Nigerian Medical Association NMA, Dr Francis Faduyile has cautioned doctors intending to grab the US’ offer, saying although the offer might sound interesting presently, it might turn sour if they (doctors) were not “protected.”
Saying, ‘’my advice to Nigerians is that they have to be careful because this is a time of war. And in a time of war, if they recruit you into the military, certainly, you would be on the battlefield and you would likely be in the area that is the most difficult. So, if they want to go, they should be sure of what they would meet there,” he warned.
Amid the raging COVID-19 pandemic, the US Government had on Thursday asked medical professionals with an approved non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition from across the world, including Nigeria, to approach the nearest embassy and apply for a work visa.
“We encourage medical professionals with an approved US non-immigrant or immigrant visa petition (I-129, I-140, or similar) or a certificate of eligibility in an approved exchange visitor programme (DS-2019), particularly those working to treat or mitigate the effects of COVID-19, to review the website of their nearest embassy or consulate for procedures to request a visa appointment,” the US Department of State said in a statement on its website.
The US added that foreign medical professionals already in the country could have their visas extended one year at a time for up to seven years.
Clarifying the statement further on Friday, the US Embassy Nigeria said in a Facebook post that only medical professionals with previously approved H or J petition would receive emergency visa appointments.
The announcement came as the US became the country with the highest number of persons diagnosed with COVID-19 with over 100,000 persons being infected. Over 1,500 patients had died.
This was as the number of cases worldwide hit over 589,000, with around 27,000 deaths. More than 132,000 patients had, however, recorded.
Incidentally, as hundreds of doctors in Abuja and Cross River State went on strike last week over non-payment of salaries, the US Embassy Nigeria said medical workers with previously approved H or J petition would receive emergency visa appointments.
Following this development, the Commonwealth Medical Association has also called on the Federal Government to do everything possible to retain its health workers in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, the President of the CMA, Dr Osahon Enabulele, said, “It is the responsibility of every country to decide what means and measures it wishes to use in addressing the current pandemic.
“If the Nigerian government understands and appreciates the fact that the dearth of health care professionals is a challenge in Nigeria, especially in the face of this pandemic, it needs to do something to equalize what the US is offering them.
“The government should institute very attractive incentives and do everything possible to retain its professionals, especially those at the forefront of attending to the patients. I think it’s a matter of need to drive what I call ‘equipoise’ with the kind of pool factor that has been introduced by the US Government.
“In my tour of some of the isolation centres and health facilities, I saw that health workers were giving their best in spite of the deficiencies. They voiced their concerns and we keep reassuring them that it’s our country and we should do whatever we can to support the current efforts of the government.”
Enabulele said in the light of the various donations by individuals and corporate organisations, the government should prioritize the welfare of the health workers.
“If more leave at this time, we are in for trouble. The rising cases are alarming already. That is why the government should introduce some incentives to retain them,” he added.