By Henry Uche
The Lagos State branch of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has kicked against the Health Sector Reform Programme Committee under the chairmanship of Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.
In a statement delivered by the branch chairman, Gbolagade Iyiola, the group expressed displeasure over the formation of the committee, saying, out of the 25 members, at least 18 appear to be physicians, while only one pharmacist (PSN), a nurse (NANNM) and a laboratory scientist (AMLSN) were included.
They, therefore, made a submission saying, “The Federal Government-proposed Health Sector Reform Committee may just go the way of previous health sector reform projects because the philosophy and execution plan is one and the same.
“Typical of the processes involved in the sharing of benefits packages, privileges and resources in the health sector, the reform committee, with over 75 per cent presence of physicians, already negates the rights and liberties of the majority of health workers in Nigeria.”
PSN asserted that a committee of this nature has slots for the DG, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council but not for an agency like NAFDAC, which regulates all the drugs, medical devices, vaccines, medical equipment, chemicals, etcetera that are the essential tools and commodities that drive any credible health system.
They stressed that the president of PSN, Pharm. Sam Ohuabunwa, was a former chairman of Nigeria Economic Summit Group who should earn membership on personal recognition as his experience would be handy.
“We observe with consternation that at least four of the major trade unions, including MHWUN, NUAHP, NASU and SSA, have no representation on this committee. MHWUN alone is reputed to have about 60 per cent of the entire health workforce in its fold.
“His Excellency, Prof. Osinbajo, SAN, is a seasoned lawyer who should know much about fairness and justice to all concerned. What is the significance of this reform process, if it does not bequeath a legacy of equity to health workers who remain the human resource to reckon with in this reform bid?
“It is unthinkable that a strategic arm of the health industry like JOHESU is ignored in this health reform, this composition defects will boomerang largely without sounding like a prophet of doom,” PSN said.
They added that, under the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, the late Prof. Olu Akinkugbe, an emeritus professor of medicine, led a health reform team that had a similar composition of physicians dominating overwhelmingly, but the final report was dead on arrival because the positions, like what the Osinbajo Committee would likely bring to the table, would be favourable to only physicians, making it unacceptable to health professionals and workers, who make up over 90 per cent of the membership of the health sector.
“We have analysed the need to have the likes of Mr. Alex Okoh, the Director General of Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) on this Committee. It is reasonable to suspect that government is already walking the path of privatisation and selling of government property.
“The Director-General of BPE is the anchor of the sales of public enterprises so these fears when juxtaposed against the propensity of His Excellency, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to drive privatisation based on his antecedents when he was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State when Lagos State Government privatised public sector Pharmacies in Lagos State real.
“The PSN Lagos State therefore prays to the Federal Government to reconstitute the Health Sector Reform Committee to accommodate all relevant stakeholders in terms more Pharmacists, other professionals and JOHESU. More so the government must give assurances that this is not the beginning of job losses in the public sector,” they added.