By Doris Obinna and Henry Uche
The Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) has charged the National Assembly to shred the proposed National Medical Emergency Agency Bill 2021, sponsored by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, on the grounds that the bill was precarious to all medical professionals, except physicians and dentists.
In a statement by the chairman, JOHESU, Joy Bio Josiah, the group raised the alarm that Oloriegbe had smuggled some “heresies” into the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Act Amendment Bill, 2020. According to the statement, Oloriegbe, in alliance with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), went against the norm in international best practices and inserted into the MDCN amendment bill clauses, which include the under-listed: “section 2(I) under functions of the MDCN – powers to make regulations for the operation of clinical laboratory practice, contrary to the proviso of the MLSN Act 2003, which is also a creation of parliament.
“Section 40 (1)b and (2)b conferred the title of doctor and apothecary on only medical practitioners and dentists in Nigeria.
“Section 45(3), which mandates physicians and dentists to stock and dispense drugs in Nigeria and under interpretation clause that ‘medically qualified’ is a reference to persons certified by MDCN.”
The JOHESU chairman in the statement said, “Oloriegbe introduced alien standards to public hearings by insisting individuals could not take positions contrary to the 1999 Constitution. All hell was let loose as people protested his high-handedness to high heavens. Despite repeated assurances in high places, the Senate, at its proceedings of Tuesday, June 8, 2021, has gone ahead to approve some of the aberrations prescribed by the chairman, Senate Committee on Health.
“Approbation to MDCN to regulate and control clinical laboratory practice despite the provisions in existing MLSCN Act 2003; while tactically admitting that pharmacists are apothecaries, Section 40(1)b and (2)b still retain proviso suggesting that only medical practitioners and dentists can hold the title of doctor.
“Interpretations, which confirm that it is the MDCN that certifies ‘medically qualified’ persons in Nigeria, which is an attempt to formally institutionalize the unholy clauses in the University Teaching Hospital Act, where the condition precedent to emerge the chief medical director and chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of these hospitals, is grounded in being ‘medically qualified’.”
JOHESU called on the Clerk of the National Assembly to formally stop further proceedings of the MDCN act amendment bill because there are pending court actions in the Court of Appeal on who actually has powers to regulate and control clinical laboratory practice in Nigeria.
They also informed the Speaker of the House of Representatives to shun concurrence and harmonisation of the MDCN Amendment Act bill between the Senate and the House of Representatives.
“Section 2 (2) of the bill which deals with the composition of the proposed agency is the classical epitome of the inequality and injustice that is the hallmark of the health sector in Nigeria as championed by the chairman, Senate committee on health.”
“Apart from advocating a bill where both the chairman and the DG/Secretary of the board are physicians/medical practitioners, 11 other board members making a total of 13 out of 24 potential board members are Physicians/Medical Practitioners, thus this agency as presently structured does not list the critical healthcare professional in care giving dispensations and logically cannot stand.
They maintained that the shortcomings in the representation of pharmacists, medical laboratory scientists, physiotherapists and radiographers were an open invitation to unhindered calamity, adding that over 95 per cent of emergency medical treatment, drug utilization will be invited. “The existing pharmacy act and National Drug Policy gives a specific approbation in law to pharmacists to procure, handle, store, distribute, sell, dispense, market, counsel, import, export and manufacture drugs and poisons in Nigeria.”