Medical Doctors Push for 70 Years Retirement Age

HEALTHCARE workers in the country have urged the Federal Government to extend the retirement age, to bridge the manpower shortage in the health sector.

The health workers want the retirement age for consultants to be 70 years and 65 years for other cadres in the sector, as applicable in the education and other sectors.

The government had, in October 2023, approved the appointment of doctors, nurses, and other clinical healthcare workers as contract staff after attaining their compulsory retirement age or years, but the healthcare workers said the policy was unsustainable.

Daily, skilled health professionals migrate to developed countries to seek greener pastures, leaving medical facilities to struggle with limited manpower.

Poor remuneration, rising insecurity, inadequate diagnostic facilities, and poor working conditions are also among the reasons for the mass exodus.

However, stakeholders in the health sector said one of the ways to stem the tide of Japa syndrome was to increase the retirement age of the available health workers.

The President of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, Prof Mohammad A. Mohammad, said, “We all know that the japa syndrome is eroding the manpower that we have. So, we need to retain those we have to continue to serve. One of the ways of retaining them is to increase the retirement age of medical consultants and other healthcare providers, so that they could continue in service longer than what they were doing now.

“For example, the majority of the consultants working in the hospitals are going to retire at 60. Other climes are increasing the retirement age of the health workers so that they can serve longer than expected.

“The retirement age of university lecturers, judicial officers, and many other civil servants has been increased, we also want to ensure that of medical consultants is increased, so that they can continue to train more, and continue to impact the experiences gathered over the years of service to train both undergraduates and postgraduates”, he said.

The immediate past national chairman of the Joint Health Workers Union, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, noted that the retirement age should be increased to enable those who are 60 years and above and still willing to serve to do so in order to make up for the workers lost to the ongoing brain drain.

Ogbonna stated that with the younger health workers going abroad, the old ones needed to be retained longer in the system in order not to create a vacuum.

“To bridge that gap, we propose that those who are willing and strong enough to stay till 65 can stay. The proposal has not been considered, but it is the nation that will suffer for it.

“We have discovered that when the younger ones come into the system, like the teaching hospital or federal medical centre, they use that as a platform to where they are going to travel to; they are not coming into the system to really stay,” he said.

Vice-President II of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors and Chairman of the NARD Medical Education Committee, Dr Kefas Wadi, said the push for an extension in the retirement age was to enable the health system to work.

“The whole thing is a cycle, because a lot of people are going, and the few that are left are overworked. The people going have been trained, and it will take an average of 15 years to train a specialist from medical school. So, if those who train retire at 60, how do we get a turnover of specialists?

“So, they need to stay back, guide, instruct, and keep the system running, so the turnover of specialists will increase. It is not about someone wanting to stay till he or she is old, but it is about making the system survive the brain drain,” he stated.