Overweening Doctors Within a Comatose Health Care System By Enenim Ubon
Nigerians woke up about six days ago to the news that doctors(under the NMA) had embarked on a nationwide indefinite strike to compel the government to accede to their demands. According to the NMA, negotiations with the government within the last two weeks(preceding the strike),after it had suspended its earlier warning strike yielded nothing tangible hence the need to down tools once again.
The NMA(just like other unions) embarking on strike and presenting demands to the government is not new, it is one of those things we have gotten use to; life might not be complete if we do not witness these things regularly ! However what makes the present strike by the NMA somewhat different is the claim by the union that the strike is in the interest of all Nigerians and the future of the nations health sector, but a closer look at the 24 demands presented by the NMA to the government makes it obvious to the discerning that the NMA is only in an ego battle with other health workers. 90% of the 24 points are centered on relevance,position and money etc.
I was speaking to a group of medical doctors over the weekend who struggled to convince me on why the nation needed a Surgeon-General and I asked what will be the use of such when we have a minister of health,who is almost if not in all cases a medical doctor? They reasoned that in the case of recurrence of what happened during late President Yar’Adua tenure,the surgeon general will be the one to ascertain if the president is fit to remain in office, since he is not a politician. I reminded them that almost all of our ministers of health weren’t card carrying members of political parties before their appointments. A surgeon general appointed by the president won’t be different, “he who pays the piper calls the tune.”.
The NMA is also demanding that only medical doctors be recognized and addressed as consultants – I do not understand the basis for such a demand. Wikipedia defines a consultant as a “professional who provides professional or expert advice in a particular area.”, by that definition a carpenter,fisherman etc can all be addressed as consultants. Why then do the doctors believe it should be their exclusive preserve in the hospital environment to be addressed as consultants? Are pharmacists,nurses,lab scientists etc not all professionals, trained to carry out duties a doctor can NEVER do. If they also give professional advices,aren’t they qualified then to be addressed as consultants?
The NMA is also asking for the withdrawal of CBN circular on importation of medical equipment, which to me is laughable. What is wrong in a medical lab scientist ascertaining the state of a medical equipment before it is allowed into the country? For goodness sake, they are consultants in that field. A doctor knows nothing about medical equipments and should allow those who are trained to handle such equipments carry out their duties.
NMA has also asked that the position of CMD(Chief Medical Director) be reserved for only doctors , I can’t also understand why such a request should be granted, after-all the position is an administrative position and can be handled by any other medical personnel. The CMD does not conduct surgery in his office, therefore anyone can occupy the office. It is on record that some CMD’S in the past and even presently have been very poor in the day to day management of some government hospitals resulting in avoidable internal strikes. That one is a medical doctor does not mean the fellow will be a good manager of men and resources;why then should doctors alone be allowed to permanently occupy the position of CMD?
NMA is also seeking re-integration into the IPPIS and yet can’t provided an answer as to why they opted out in the first instance. Was it not still a way of trying to show that they are superior to others and shouldn’t be involved in whatever other unions are doing.
This statement by NMA president Dr Kayode Obembe “We had a meeting with the Federal Government. We tabled our minimal demands; the government did not agree with NMA, but there is no end point. Some were referred to the court. There was no end point. While this was going on, the government was issuing out circulars FAVOURING other health workers.”, is a pointer that the NMA is out to fight and suppress other health unions and this strike is one of the ways they have chosen to start their battle. The doctors are as ‘free as air’ to embark on strikes whenever their emotions permit them to(after all most of the best private clinics in Nigeria are owned by senior doctors working for th government,who will still be making money from the poor Nigerians they claim to be fighting for),but embarking on a strike to tell the government WHAT OTHERS SHOULD NOT GET alongside what they want is both unacceptable and childish.
The NMA should quit acting as pseudo-intellectuals and realize that they can’t boss over other professionals. Everyone is a KING in his/her area of specialization.
Enenim Ubon is on twitter @enenimubon .
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