For the record, I am neither a media consultant to JOHESU nor any health union, neither have I defended them beyond the basic facts of the issues arising out of the current brouhaha in the health sector. I have also had cause to defend many physicians within the scope of their job and will always do. So let it be!
The crisis in the health sector is still boiling and yet our President who doesn’t give a damn has concluded plans to create an irrelevant office called ‘Surgeon General’ for Nigeria and Nigerians. This certainly is no good plan as many will think; certainly not. This is another office meant to siphon public funds by the Presidency and his band of looters. I have spent three good days consulting all over the world on who an SG is and no one has given a good reason why Nigeria should have such bogus position. Not even the majority of the physicians see any need for such apart from the elites who will fight over it.
Going through the comments in various newspapers that have their presence online; it is evident that Nigerians do not want such a position. More criminal is the clause that it is the exclusive preserve of Medical Doctors. This is where whoever constructed the bill got it wrong. This is where we know that our President must have his PhD queried if he does not know that the SG is an all inclusive position for all medical staffs that are clinically inclined. Here we go.
The SG is a position created exclusively for the military in 1798 when the US Congress established the US Marine Hospital Service. Originally, the corps was composed only of physicians. As medicine became complicated with the realization that most of the injured war victims do not always need surgery but Physiotherapy, Nurses attention or only taking of drugs provided by the pharmacists, the position of the SG was made open to any of the officers in the Medical Command (MEDCOM) who must be a lieutenant General. Thus on December 7th 2011, Lt. Gen. Patricia Horoho. RN was sworn in as the first woman and first NURSE to officially be in command of the Army’s largest medical organization. That day proved to the world that the appointment was no longer based on medical first degree but most qualified among all the health workers.
At the ceremony, Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, chief of staff of the Army, said the impact of the Army surgeon general goes well beyond the Army to the “national and international level.”
“This position requires a special officer that can lead change and achieve unity of effort in the dynamic, joint interagency and also in a multinational role working with our allies and partners around the world,” he said.
Horoho previously served simultaneously as the U.S. Army deputy surgeon general and 23rd chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Master of Science in Nursing as a clinical trauma specialist from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a resident graduate of the Army’s Command and General Staff College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, where she earned a second Master of Science degree in National Resource Strategy.
Another Nurse who served as the SG was Gale Pollock after the then Army SG, General Kevin kIley resigned due to the controversial Walter Reed Army Medical Centre Scandal in 2007
A policy change in 1996 made it possible for someone other than a physician to serve as the Army surgeon general, according to the Army Medical Command. The policy reads that “the surgeon general may be appointed from officers in any corps of the Army Medical Department and, while so serving, has the grade of lieutenant general.” The President should automatically get this policy change as soon as possible.
Mr President, it is the words of General Raymond that I bring to you today. He never said the position required a special medical doctor or a special surgeon but a “special officer”. To further prove this point, a Pharmacist is the current Deputy Surgeon General by name, Rear Admiral Scott F. Gibberson, and should the current SG resigns or exit under any circumstance; Gibberson, a Pharmacist will take over the hallowed position. The system we wish to copy must be copied completely with the position made open to all medical workers.
The arrogance of a profession who swims in delusion of self importance should not becloud the generality of Nigerians who have seen far than they do. Taking a look at the bill sent to the Senate smacks of selfishness with roles that has already render the position of the Health Minister useless.
“He/She shall articulate scientifically based health policy analysis, and advise the President, National Assembly, and the Minister of Health on the full range of critical Public health, medical and health system issues facing the Nation.
He/She shall elevate the quality of health practice in the professional disciplines through the advancement of appropriate standards and research priorities.
He/She shall provide leadership and management oversight in National emergency preparedness and response i. e coordinate health and medical services delivery during national disasters.
He/She shall fulfill statutory and customary functions on a wide variety of Federal Boards and Government bodies as required by appropriate representation.
He/She shall promote health and healthy life styles by adherence to norms and standards, this he shall do by providing guidelines on health matters that affect the citizenry”
“The Surgeon-General of Nigeria (SGN) shall appoint numbers of persons as Director or heads of various departments provided the appointment shall reflect the Federal Character of Nigeria” they say. Whose money will they waste for the SG to appoint his cronies as SA, PA, SSA, etc? An intern medical doctor recieves N180, thousand per month which a level 14 officer in most Federal civil service don’t get. As a junior resident, his take home pay is N273 thousand which is the salary of some directors in Federal civil service; and as a senior resident officer, his pay packet is N350 thousand monthly and a consultant takes home N800,000 thousand monthly while some gets as much as N1.6 million, which is an annual pay of many senior Federal civil servants, yet someone comes to drum into our ears that it is not true. If these people collects this outrageous sum in a country where we don’t pay tax on the things we spend like our counter parts abroad; how much will the SG collects monthly? N5 million or more monthly apart from the other loots that will be budgeted to run the office.
What other work does the Minister of health do other than the above listed for the proposed SGF? Whoever thought up this idea ought to be behind bar. To think that the SG will serve for tenure of six years when the President who appoints him stays for four years is certainly the works of men who wants to use the office to feather their next. Is the SG our problem in the health sector? A million of them cannot stop any Nigeria from going to seek medical treatment abroad. If I wish to go to Germany for treatment; it is my hard earned money and no SG can block the airport to stop me or any Nigerian from entering the next available plane to go to Germany. Why deceive ourselves that the SG can decide who goes abroad for medical treatment? No profession must be allowed the misadventure to ride on another like they are princes; just as no occupation should have her ego massaged for peace to reign. This attitude of masturbating the ego of all medical workers especially NMA must stop. If the SG must be created; then the sperm of justice must run through the embryo of all the clinical workers and not a selected few.
Can we stop this deception of creating this position that will further ground the health sector and focus on solving the ones on ground? The governor of Taraba State, Danbaba Suntai does not need surgery to come back on his feet today but physiotherapy. Do we then create the office of the Physiotherapy General? Do we need to remind ourselves that Obasanjo closeness to Senator Andy Uba is because he was rehabilitated by the latter who is a doctor of physiotherapy? Did he ask the then President to create a special post for his colleagues? Any attempt by Mr President to create this post will bring anarchy not just to the health sector but Nigeria as a whole. He should get ready to create the office of the tutor general, Reporter General, Engineer general, bricklayer general, Suya Man general, Banker General, Driver general, Pharmacist general, and even corruption general which will be headed by Stella Oduah, Alison Madueke or Goddey Orubebe. It is as serious as that. The President should focus on building of quality hospitals that will make our leaders get treated at home. It is a lie from the pit of abyss to tell Nigerians that medical tourism is due to the non availability of a Surgeon General. For crying out loud; only five countries arguably have the office of Surgeon General and we do not have to follow suit. Enough of this copy cat culture in us, when we have not finished copying how to practice the true democracy. It’s another sub-standard lie for NMA to Nigerians that Nigeria best brains in Medicine and Surgery are abroad. Oh my God, it means we all have been treated by quacks that are left in this country all these years. We are simply finished!
All other medical workers especially the Nurses and Physiotherapists are the worst hit as we have them practicing abroad more than the physician. There is brain drain in every sector and it is entirely not the fault of Nigeria, but personal decisions. Do we bring all the health workers registered in their various boards to confirm this claim?
We certainly do not have money to waste on this borrowed post that is coming to duplicate the minister of health. Come to think of it, which of our medical worker in the Armed Forces is up to the rank of a Lieutenant General? If we must copy anything America, we must also copy their prudent way of spending and it has to begin from the budget. Any attempt to gag the president into creating this monster position without following the Americans whom we are borrowing it from will certainly prove to the world his weakness, and a weak man cannot govern a country like Nigeria. This is worse than the current challenge of the All Progressive Congress (APC), as it will indirectly affects the masses. What are we even saying? The bill has been brought to the Senate and House of Representatives and they in their wisdom have thrown it out. It went before the Justice Abdullahi Gusau Committee on Harmony in the Health Sector and was utterly rejected. This bill will certainly not see the day without the assent of the lawmakers, and if in whatever form it succeeds; Mr President should please tender his resignation letter should the health sector goes on strike. We do not live in an animal farm despite the President being a graduate of how to take care of animals.
It is still a rumor for now and President Jonathan can still warm his way back by dousing it and reassuring us that it will never come to pass; at least not in his regime and never should it be. Do the needful. Happy New Year pals.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, a Journalist can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and +2348026797588 (sms only please). Follow on twitter @fejirooliver86 and Facebook fejirooliver86. Like our Facebook page – secretsreporters