The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has expressed satisfaction with the large number of optometrists remaining in the country, in spite of the persistent brain drain.
The governor made this known on Thursday at a conference organised by the Nigerian Optometric Association (NOA), Lagos State Chapter to commemorate the annual celebration of the World Optometry Day, in Lagos.
The conference, which had the theme: “The Optometrist: Providing Vision For All’’, was set aside to celebrate every optometrist for their role in eye care.
Sanwo-Olu, represented by the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi, said, “The first thing that struck me is the number of optometrists that are here today.
“It’s lovely to see that though many of our trained optometrists are leaving Lagos and Nigeria and going abroad, we still have a large number staying at home in Lagos.
“That means one of two things; either we’re producing enough optometrists that we can manage the brain drain, or that the environment is conducive for them to practise and therefore, a lot of them are staying behind.
“And the community is appreciating the skill and the benefits that they provide to us.
"So, I came here today really to encourage the association.
“But, there’s nothing wrong with specialists going abroad to explore and to be exposed, but at the end of the day.
“It is obvious that they will want to come back because the optometry environment here looks very conducive for professionals to practice and to be happy, and to deliver a very nice service to the citizens of the state.’’
Dr Obinna Awiaka, the National President of NOA who said brain drain is a big issue, urged the government to pay more attention to the welfare of its members and healthcare workers.
He said that the country is falling short of Nigerian optometrists and doctors to man its health facilities, adding that they have all moved to the UK, U.S. and Saudi Arabia for greener pastures.
“Brain drain is a huge problem and the good thing about we optometrists is that we have a large number and we are also training more from the school to replace it.
“But brain drain is something that is really affecting every sector, not just the medical sector.
“So, we are asking the government to pay more attention to the welfare of workers so that people will decide to stay home instead of wanting to go out,’’ he said.
Earlier, Dr Gloria Okoekhian, the Chairperson of NOA, Lagos State Chapter, called on the government to include optometrists in their teams and programs to allow for the provision of eye care to everyone.
“Good eyesight and vision are essential for a productive life, hence it is important that primary eye care be made available and accessible to all.
“Primary eye care plays a key role in the prevention of avoidable blindness and visual impairment and as such places a responsibility on the shoulders of the optometrist, the primary eye care practitioner, who helps patients and their families take the first step toward healthier eyes and healthier lives.
“It is, therefore, imperative that stakeholders in eye care like optometrists are duly recognised, projected, empowered and included in teams and programs that promote and provide eye care to everyone,’’ Okoekhian said.
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