Forgive this lengthy write up, but I just have to bare the minds of Nigerians concerning the health sector. Sometimes I can’t help but wonder if some people or a group of persons think Nigeria is their fiefdom where they dictate what happens to others living therein. I’m even tempted to believe that these people feel they have the power to determine who gets the breath of life, but thank God men are not God and never will be.
Nigeria may be a country where even fools wish to lead the wise and no one will question it. Nigeria may be a country where everything and anything goes, but that is when we all keep quiet and allow it to be. For months I have refused to comment on the imbroglio happening in the health sector, where some people have assumed the toga of almighty and sworn with swords in their hands to be the Pharaoh that will never let my people go. For months, many people peddle lies that I am a Medical Laboratory Scientist who went for Journalism training again and hence have always written to favor the scientists. This rumor came from Ladoke Akintola Teaching Hospital, Ogbomosho who has been in the news of recent, through my reports; and like I always say, who cares what they say.
Millions of Nigerians who I have interacted with in the cause of my silence are disturbed at this trend; where a group of workers among the health sector has taken it as their God given right to determine the destiny of other health workers. We are terribly perturbed that the Nigerian Medical doctors have become the pain in the ass in the medical arena when they should be co-players. Just when we thought that the Dr Osahon Enabulele formerly led Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) will be a better body since his tenure expired; we are rudely shocked that his successor, Dr Kayode Obembe may throw the cherished association into worse disrepute than Enabulele did.
What manner of ego is it that a group of employed workers by the government will tell the government how to relate with other employed medical workers? What was Obembe thinking when he demanded that Nigeria give all physicians’ special cars with special plate number for whatever God knows what? For crying out loud, no one forced any child to study medicine or dentistry and thus no one should graduate from his/her school and begin to tell us what to give to them. This is not just super superiority complex but an attempt to tell us Nigerians that we either give them what they want or they give us hell. Take this from us NMA, not in this life or in the next world will Nigeria be stupid enough to give any of your member cars with special plate number. Soon they will be telling all Nigerians to leave the roads for them when they pass in a supposed hurry to attend to emergency. Soon they will tell us to create a special road for them to drive on with siren blowing and following them. No wonder a great man once said “Physicians and politicians resemble one another in this respect that some defend the constitution and others destroy it.”
Just when we were about to get over their ‘night of a thousand laugh’ car demand, came a 24 demand which must be met within 14 days or they shut down their services. This is the bone of contention which we must make known to Nigerians to decide for themselves if we can continue to keep their services or ask them to go open their private clinics or privatise the hospitals. We have had enough of these clowns masquerading as life savers, like they are the only medical workers who save lives in the hospital. Little wonder a legal practitioner called them ‘merchant of deaths’ in his article. Here we go Nigerians.
The NMA wants the FG to appoint 4 Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC) for each teaching hospitals and 3 for FMC. Lovely demands but utterly crazy. What will these DCMAC be doing when we already have a CMAC? Let Nigerians be aware that what NMA simply want is a DCMAC for clinical services, works, welfare and security, which none of them is trained or equipped to perform, talk less of supervising it. The FG should as a matter of urgency scrap the position of DCMAC in the first place as it merely duplicate the works of the directors in the hospital. These extra positions demanded by the NMA which has now become Nigerian Mental Association is a sure way of looting more funds, as budget will be allocated to them to run the non- performing office. Nigerians say no to DCMAC.
We never knew that the NMA is now the employer of medical and health workers in Nigeria. If not, they won’t dare to demand that no other worker in the hospital should be appointed a director. The FG should not bow to these lame and wicked demand of theirs and make the mistake of not appointing any worker in the hospital to directorship level. What does NMA mean by the position ‘distorting the chain of command’ when other directors are appointed? If the NMA members do not want the position of directors, they should remain stagnant and allow the others who merit it become.
If JOHESU demands to skip a grade level, then it may also be just that NMA skip level 12, but to use the word ‘MUST’ is uncouth and rude. We pay you guys and determine what level you skip. Nobody in civil service skips level 12, but they skip grade level 11, so demanding to skip such level is simply unreasonable. Your entry point is already too much that we are considering stopping it, so don’t go asking for the impossible.
This is where I know that Obembe and his band of jolly riders may have taken a shot of vodka before making this particular demand. How can a supposed enlightened group of persons tell the FG that no other medical worker should be called a consultant? For crying out loud, the medicine that we practice do not apply to physicians alone but to all clinical staff and the word ‘consultant’ is not an exclusive preserve of those with MBBS/BDS but for those who have undergone the training and the board of his profession or hospital deems him/her to be a consultant. Has NMA no shame that it will attempt to practice world standard but wants to turn the rule upside down when it does not favor them? I am aware that the NUAP National President, Felix Faniran is a Neuro PT consultant. Will NMA now tell Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital he works to stop paying him his consultancy fees? If every medical workers becoming a consultant will cause anarchy in the health sector like NMA envisaged; so be it. This selfish group of arrogant creatures cannot determine for another profession what to designate to their members.
If the FG reached an agreement to pay NMA all their arrears, there should be no reason why they should not be paid. The FG should as a matter of urgency begin to compile all the monies owed them and paid to them. The laborer is worthy of his wages! Agreed that the National Health Bill is a good wind that will blow across the nation, but the words written in it cannot apply to other medical and health workers. The NHB as it stands is only a bill for physicians and until the grey areas are ironed out, that bill should not be passed.
The issue of Surgeon General to be appointed for the federation does not hold water. It has been discussed before that such a post can only be appointed in Nigeria if it is made open to all clinical staff like it is in other countries where it exists. By the way, the position will only be duplicating other posts in the health sector. Nigeria has other issues bothering them than this thiefing pipeline of SGF that NMA wants to hijack. NIGERIANS SAY NO TO SGF! Now we have no problem with telling the FG to pay some bunch of lazy men called ‘honorary consultants’ who only stay in their private clinics clinical duty allowance, but to demand for 90% of CONMESS is fraud. How can a man who is not a full time staff be paid such a huge sum of money when the real resident doctors who do the jobs get nothing? The FG should not fall to this demand as other workers in other agencies will also make theirs. If this money must be paid, then all honorary consultants from other medical field should be paid same.
I wonder what these physicians consider as hazard. Are they more exposed to hazards that the white angels who stay with patients and do all the dirty clinical jobs in the hospitals? Are they more exposed than the Med Lab Scientists who carry out all the tests in the hospitals? Are they more exposed to harm than the radiographers who face radiation daily and risk not having children? What then makes them feel that they should earn N100,000 as hazard allowance a month apart from their jumbo pay? The President should not dare to attend to this demand which is selfish and not in the best interest of the nation, but just to enrich their pockets. The hazards face by the journalists daily cannot be compared to theirs, as we risk losing our lives for every story reported, yet those who work in the government media have not demanded such amount for hazard. This clownish demand cannot be met.
Our pampering of the physicians for long has made them look directly at us in the face to tell the country to sponsor them for residency abroad. Are NMA and the FG not aware that other medical workers undergo residency? If residency is granted to physicians to go abroad, then the FG should also be ready to foot the bill of other medical workers to undergo theirs abroad too. Enough of these demands and forceful request by NMA! They should be thankful to Nigerians who work in other sphere for not making such heavy demands, but allow them to have their ways. But our docility must not be taken for foolishness. “The Overseas clinical attachment must be fully restored and properly funded in the interest of the nation”, they say, but we know it is not in the nation’s interest but theirs. Anyone who wants to do his residency abroad should be ready to foot his bills and come back home to negotiate for better pay.
If our security operatives were up and doing, many physicians ought to be behind bar for violating the laws of the land. When we are shouting that NMA has no right to go on strike since it is not a labour union, they come with a demand that common house officers should be members of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD). When did house officers become resident doctors? This demand is aimed at stopping house officers from working whenever they go on strike. It is my humble advice to the government to sack every house officer who goes on strike during NMA/NARD strike. It is not just illegal but a criminal offence.
Now this is the most foolish and illiterate demand of them all that “the position of Chief Medical Director/Medical Director must continue to be occupied by a Medical Doctor as contained in the Act establishing the tertiary Hospitals. This position remains sacrosanct and untouchable”. These people must be feeling like one super human from another planet with powers to do the undoable. Nigerians, we all need a big chain to tame these guys before they throw the health sector into anarchy completely. For the avoidance of doubt, the act establishing the tertiary institutions was unilaterally done by one of their cronies, Olukoya Ransome Kuti who plunged the health sector into its current woes. What must be understood is that the title ‘medical’ does not refer to physicians, but anyone clinically inclined. If the word medical should be used to become the CMD, then those who read Medical Laboratory and Medical Rehabilitation should be the Bonafide leader of the hospitals. Be that as it may, other medical workers should concede clinical leadership to the physicians, knowing full well that they are more grounded in clinical practice than others. But on this, they only coordinate, not boss around; a team where the Medical doctor is just first among equals.
Anyone with a clinical background should be the CMD irrespective of the medical course read. To attempt to compare my revered profession, law, to medical courses is sheer stupidity of the highest order. I do not speak because I’m set to get my second degree in Law, but the unarguable truth is that law is the only profession without a branch while in the university. Law is the only profession that is not a multi discipline faculty, but this is not so with health courses where we have over 5 courses related and each one can do what the other do a great extent. Just anyone with a medical background can be a CMD and if the physicians do not feel comfortable with it, they should quietly build their own hospitals and chose how to run it, or go form their own country where they can dictate to the President whom to appoint as the Chief executive. We have had enough of their madness and since they have refused to be tamed; Nigerians are left with no choice but to give then the Governor Babatunde Fashola treatment should they embark on their proposed industrial action.
In USA, 49 states remaining Michigan (which is on the way) grants Doctors of Physiotherapists first contact access to patients without referral from any other medical team, but in Nigeria, these egomaniac set of creatures will fight tooth and nail to stop it, claiming international standard that they don’t know and do not care to know, the truth is that the time has come for every profession to be take full charge of themselves and not allow NMA or the FG to determine how their profession should be practiced. Any attempt to stop any other health team like Pharmacy from getting their PharmD would be resisted or nursing from doing internship and residency will be countered. If it means closing down all other professions in medical college for the next generations to read only Medicine and Surgery, since they will not be allowed to practice the international standard of medicine, so be it.
For those who will scream that I failed Medical School, hold your God damn breath for I have heard it a million time and for those who will say I have been paid to put this up; save your weak brains the thought for I have been told so thousands of time. I refuse to be part of a cheated generation and a supporter of oppression. There are no masters in the health sector but all co-workers and allied to each other. For now I can exonerate the Minister of Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu who has condemned their demands long before now, while working with him and the Yayale led harmonization team to see how health practice is done in other developed countries. My resolve to help the health team to attain world standard remains unshaken and everything it takes to travel round 10 countries in the six continents to investigate how it is done there is already been put in place.
Take this from me dear Dr Kayode Obembe, but your regime began on a wrong note. So so bad that we have to begin your tenure with the sound of war, but you surely can do better. While wishing you well and talking to you soon, accept my sincere congratulations on your victory. Like two birds in the sky, we surely will sit together and chat away as friends and partners in the coming days as I drink from your spring of knowledge and question you on why you embarked on this infamous route. As you go through this dear physician, think on this “the field of Western medicine has seemingly become literally nothing but medicine. Are doctors are on their way out, to be replaced by self-service pharmaceutical vending machines?” ~Grey Livingston.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, a Journalist, Social Critic, Activist and Media Consultant can be reached on email@example.com and +2348026797588 (sms only please). Follow him on his twitter handle @fejirooliver86 and Facebook posts; fejirooliver86. Like our Facebook page – secretsreporters