Health Sector Strike: NMA Has Lost Focus By Adetoro Taofik
“My dream was a beautiful one: after graduation, I’d go home and alleviate the suffering of all those unfortunates who had been victimized like my father. In the event of war, I’d become a surgeon in the military; and in any case, I would strengthen my countrymen’s faith in modernization.” Lu Xun, the late Chinese writer, referring to his initial ambitions to serve his country as a doctor. He later decided that he could do this better by becoming a writer.
Whenever there is an industrial action by any group of health professionals, no one feels the adverse effect except the patients. Especially those who belong to the cadre of masses, who can’t afford to go to private hospitals. JOHETSU/ NUPTAM just suspended a nationwide strike. Integral health professionals such as Medical Laboratory Scientists, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Radiographers and so on were all on strike. Without these professionals, the activities in every hospital and health institution will be comatose. This was evident in the activities at our various tertiary hospitals in the country these past few days. Industrial actions in the health sector unlike other sectors always have immediate adverse effect. This effect is one of no remedy, and that is death of patients. For this singular fact, the government should always keep the health sector in order. In fact, they are never supposed to have enough reasons to embark on industrial actions. Incessant industrial actions show that our health sector is in disarray. If it is not NMA today, it is ARD tomorrow or JOHETSU next tomorrow.
I have been very baffled by the response of the health professionals of NMA extraction to the just suspended JOHETSU industrial action. I’m still very baffled. If the medical doctors were not interfering in the business of other health professionals, it is most probable that the reasons for the strike would have been absent in the first place.
Whenever NMA embark on industrial actions it’s no one’s business. You can never find other health professionals whining because it’s none of their business. But when JOHETSU or any other health professionals embark on industrial actions, it becomes NMA’s business. A court ruled in favor of skipping salary grade level CONHESS 10, and our honorable minister of health refused to implement it just because some almighty medical doctors told him not to. What concerns “skipping” with service delivery of medical doctors? Will harmonization of call duty allowance affect their salary or pay grade? Will payment of specialist allowance to other health professionals stop their specialist allowance in any way? Why are they always interfering in the business of other professionals? Why are they always competing with other health professionals when no one is in competition with them?
Since 2005, Neighboring Ghana has had five Health Ministers and only one is trained in a Health profession, and that minister was a pharmacist. The Health Minister of India is a politician, and he is not a medical doctor. This is same India where every rich Nigerian runs to for treatment now. Germany which is the country our First Lady went for her numerous treatments and surgery has a trained banker as its Health Minister. Our colonial masters, the United Kingdom has a Management Consultant as her Secretary of State for Health. It is same in United States where the Secretary of State for Health is a Political Scientist and an Administrative Consultant. In France, it is a Lawyer. These individuals were chosen based on their track record in management positions and not based on their profession. They would have shown exemplary character in management positions with little or no history of mismanagement before chosen to handle the health ministry. Why can’t Nigeria emulate that? UK and US have always been our reference in national development issues, what then is wrong with issues of health sector? Why can’t we emulate them in that too? Why can’t Nigeria select a Health Minister based on good management history? History has it that the present Health Minister wasn’t even successful in handling a Teaching Hospital. What do we expect when he’s saddled with the task of controlling the health of a whole nation? Actually, the fault lies in the hand of those who put him in power. Medical doctors are so obsessed with positions such that they are now heading medical records department in many hospitals. Yet, we have trained and qualified medical record officers. In OAUTHC, they even attempted taking over the works and engineering department of that hospital. Please what does a medical doctor have to do with engineering?
There are Medical Laboratory Scientists who have been Vice Chancellors of Universities before. The present Vice Chancellor of University of Calabar is a Medical Laboratory Scientist. There are Pharmacists, Nurses, and Physiotherapists who have controlled institutions and are still controlling institutions. Dora Akunyili is a living example. Then why must the heads of all health agencies, hospitals and related institutions be reserved for Medical Doctors alone? Are they the only professionals in the health sector? Unlike your claims that you are the most learned in the health sector; no you’re not. The fact is you only know what you were trained upon. Few months introductory lessons in fields such as Laboratory Medicine, physiotherapy and others doesn’t make you any authority in those fields. Matter of fact, you know next to nothing about their practice.
Qualified medical doctors are not supposed to involve themselves or be concerned with all these non-clinical issues. Their sole task is making an ill patient well in collaboration with other health professionals. This task is very enormous on its own without adding other non-clinical issues to it. Their colleagues in other countries majorly stick to their primary assignment. And in other to effectively carry their assignment out, they work hand in gloves with other health professionals reasonably and professionally. After seeing all that transpired during the industrial action embarked upon by JOHETSU and NUPTAM, I came to the realization that our many (definitely not all) of the health professionals of the NMA extraction have lost focus of their primary duties and assignments. They definitely need to find their way back.
Now that the strike is suspended, I hope we all find ways to make working relationship in the health sector better.
Adetoro Taofik is a Medical Laboratory Scientist. He tweets through @adetoroTK
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