By Henry Uche
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), also known as Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA), has vowed to challenge the hostile disposition of Nigerian physicians against other health professionals in the country.
In a press statement signed by JOHESU’s national chairman, Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, the group said the attitude of Nigerian physicians was becoming unbecoming, noting that the Nigerian health sector had become the epitome of perennial decay.
“Though one of the professions and its practitioners, viz, medicine and physicians, aided by the tyrannical instrument of state, has continued to oppress and suppress all other health professionals in a supposedly multidisciplinary sector, we shall not leave any stone unturned in our quest to purge Nigerian physicians of their disposition of insubordination in their relationship with other cadres of the Nigerian health workforce, in public interest,” it said.
The group also accused physicians in high places of relegating the interest of other health workforce, adding that such attitudes only leads to disaster to the country at large.
“Today, physicians who are on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) scale have enjoyed adjustments on their scale four times between 2014 and 2020; while sabotaging similar adjustments for health workers on the CONMESS, particularly through the influence of the physician ministers on the Federal Executive Council since 2015.
“Presently, the emolument of the most junior physician is almost at par with that of the highest ranking health professional, an aberration in the realm of global best practice. The desperation to sustain the unhealthy status quo in the health sector has gotten to a climax of the absurd. A case in hand is the connivance of the Federal Ministry of Health not to allow the rule of law prevail despite several court rulings affirming the autonomy of medical laboratory science and the jurisdictional competence of medical laboratory scientist to prevail in clinical laboratories. Desperate physicians and pathologists will not let this see the light of day.
“At a recent public hearing at the Senate, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and other groups of physicians tried to impose provisos into the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Amendment Bill, 2020, by trying to cede powers to head clinical diagnostic laboratories to pathologists and radiologists, against known tenets of good health practice.
“These illogicalities have continued only because physicians enjoy the clandestine support of their members in high places to continue to disrupt progressive inclinations in the health sector. As part of the grand agenda to truncate the progress of all health workers, apart from their kith and kin in medicine, physicians have emboldened their members who are currently the CEOs of all health institutions in Nigeria to disrupt the equilibrium of benefit packages to any cadre of the health workforce in Nigeria.”
The health unions stressed that physicians and their umbrella body have blackmailed and intimidated successive administrations in Nigeria at state and federal levels to continue to insist that appointments as Minister of Health and Commissioners for Health remain the birthright of physicians, albeit unconstitutionally.
They added that, recently, in December 2020, pharmacists were granted consultant cadre by the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation. Apart from the University College Hospital, Ibadan, and Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi, where the boards of management graciously approved the commencement of this cadre, all the other 55 federal health institutions have refused to allow the execution of consultant cadre circular for pharmacists.
“The Federal Ministry of Health in alignment with the same Committee of Chief Medical Directors had earlier frustrated the implementation of the circular of the residency training for pharmacists since 2015, by disallowing Post-Graduate students of the WAPCP access to training facilities in all the Federal Health Institutions contrary to provisions of the 2015 circular on Pharmacist Residency Training. In some bizarre cases, postgraduate Pharmacists are charged as high as fifty thousand naira to have access to facilities, patients’ records and other details in Federal Health Institutions.
“JOHESU/AHPA finds it necessary to draw the attention of the Federal Government and State Governments that Nigeria Medical Doctors as an umbrella template of practicing physicians believe they “own” patients. According to the World Medical Associations (WMA) declaration on the Rights of the Patients “the Physician has an obligation to cooperate in the coordination of medically indicated care with other healthcare providers treating the patients.
“Pharmacists, nurses, medical laboratory scientists and other professionals consider themselves to be more competent in their areas of patient care than physicians and see no reason why they should not be treated as equal with physicians. These health professionals favour a team approach to patient care in which the view of all caregivers are given equal consideration and they consider themselves accountable directly to the patient.
“Although some physicians may resist challenges to their traditional absolute authority, it seems certain that their role will change in response to claims by both patients and other healthcare providers for greater participation in medical decision-making – The above captures the new thinking and attitudes of physicians as captured in the World Medical Association, Medical Ethics Manual 3rd Edition 2015. This manual and other publications of WMA as well as the WHO have become must read for Nigeria Physicians so that they can be delivered from their self-inflicted bondage of limited knowledge in global health matters,” they affirmed.