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Can foreign Chinese doctors practice in Nigeria legally?

The Chinese doctors arrive Nigeria on Wednesday. PHOTOS BY: Chris Agabi
The Chinese doctors arrive Nigeria. PHOTOS BY: Chris Agabi

Recently, the news filtered of the coming of Chinese doctors to Nigeria for the purpose of containing the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country against outcries from citizens and medical practitioners alike. This, in itself, has raised certain legal concerns on whether or not Chinese doctors can practice in Nigeria, and the necessary regulatory processes involved.

The primary purpose of the team is to “provide China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) employees with critical and necessary healthcare,” the Punch report quoted CCECC Executive Director Jacques Liao as saying.

Considering the extant position of the Medical Practitioners Act, Rules of Professional Conduct for Medical and Dental Practitioners, Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria’s checklist for temporal registration of foreign doctors, they all provide for the basic process and requirement foreign medical practitioners can go through before been allowed to even practice in Nigeria.

Furthermore, the exigency of the time was envisaged when the Act provides for temporal registration.  This makes sense considering the fact that anybody wielding medical certificate should not just be allowed to come into Nigeria and practice while being a foreigner.

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It is my firm view that the said Chinese doctors or any foreign doctor cannot practice in Nigeria, for whatever reason at all without fulfilling the due process of the Law; and that anything contrary will amount to deliberate illegality.

Legal analysis

The instructive law  for registration of medical practitioners in Nigeria is the Medical and Dental Practitioners Act. The duty of the council under the Act is not limited only to doctors trained within the country, but also to doctors trained outside the country and doctors who wish to practice in Nigeria for a limited purpose and period.

Section 6(3) of the Act provides that, “Separate register shall be maintained for medical practitioners and dental surgeons respectively, each of which shall be divided into the following parts:-

  1. one part for fully registered persons;
  2. one part for provisionally registered persons, in the case of medical practitioners; and

iii. one part for persons who have been granted limited registration under Section 13 of this Act.”

Section 13 further provides that: Practitioners for limited registration:

“(1) Where a person satisfies the Council….

(a) that he has been selected for employment for a specified period in an approved hospital or as the case may be, in any other approved institution in Nigeria in the capacity of a practitioner of medicine, surgery, dental surgery or midwifery, and that he is or intends to be in Nigeria for a limited period for the purposes of serving for that period in the employment in question; and

(b) that he has passed the assessment examination, if any, of the council following some qualifications granted outside Nigeria which is for the time being accepted by the council for the purposes of this section in respect of the capacity in which, if employed, he is to serve.

The council may, if it thinks fit, give a direction that he shall be registered for a limited period as a medical practitioner or as a dental surgeon as the case may be. “

This goes to show that every foreign medical doctor who either wants to practice fully or temporarily for a limited time and cause,  must be registered under the Act.

The code of ethics for medical practitioners also provides in Section 6(a)(III) that: “This is the type of registration issued to expatriate practitioners. Unlike the full registration, it has a specific period of validity after which it must be renewed or the practitioner must leave the country. It is also tied to a specific employment. Any change of employment invalidates the registration and the practitioner must then process a new registration for the new job.

A practitioner on Limited Registration cannot set up or run a clinic or hospital on his own. A practitioner on the Limited or Temporary Register is not allowed to work privately on his own. He must work with Nigerian practitioners in the clinic or hospital.”

Furthermore, there are mandatory checklists for temporal  registration of foreign doctors in Nigeria, stipulated by the Medical and  Dental Council of Nigeria.

The question now is whether or not the Chinese doctors will be made to respect our laws and  fulfil these legal requirements before they will commence any medical work in Nigeria however slightly.

The sum of my submission is that, the Chinese doctors who recently came into Nigeria or any other foreign doctor cannot practice in Nigeria without following the above stated procedures of the law.  Any attempt to do otherwise, while practising as a medical  doctor and attending to patients in Nigeria, will amount to a gross violation of extant provisions of the law.

Let the right thing be done. Let the law of the land be followed.

 

Opatola Victor Esq. is an Abuja based legal practitioner (adeopatola@gmail.com – 07069687425)

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