NMA: Why FG Can’t Stop Doctors from Private Practice

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Hammed Shittu in Ilorin
The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) Monday reacted to the new policy of the federal government banning medical doctors in public health institutions from engaging in private practices during working hours, describing such action as illegal.

The association also asked the federal government to come out clear and define what it meant by working hours because according to it, doctors in public hospitals were already working more than the 40 units required by law.

NMA’s National President, Mike Ogirima, a Professor of Orthopaedics and Trauma Surgery, disclosed this in Ilorin, Kwara State capital, while speaking with journalists to mark the ‘2017 Physicians Week’. The text of the address was signed by the association Secretary General, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu.
The theme for the 2017 Physicians Week is ‘Declining Immunisation Coverage: Threat to National Development and Security, Way Forward’.

According to him, “The attempt to stop private practice by doctors working in public health institution is against the law of the land. NMA frowns at our members who use the working hours to attend to their private clinics/hospitals.
“Government should enforce the law by reconstituting the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN). Government must not dissolve the MDCN without immediate reconstruction, we want it in perpetuity.

“NMA will work in tandem with the government to discipline erring members subjecting them to MDCN’s disciplinary tribunal which has since being in limbo because of lack of MDCN.’’
Speaking further, the NMA president lamented that in the last two weeks, NMA had lost six members because they were ‘‘overwhelmed with work overload and had stress-related death.
”He said currently, doctors in Nigeria were working below the World Health Organisation (WHO) standard which prescribed a ratio of one doctor (1:600) patients as against one doctor to over to over 200, 000 (1 :200,000) patients obtainable in Nigeria.

‘‘By law, doctors are supposed to work for only 40 units, but we have doctors working for up to 80 units. If you want me to work more than 40 units, pay me for more than 40 units. So if you want to enforce it, maybe we should start from there,” Ogirima said.
He decried a situation where governments at the states and federal level claimed they don’t have money to employ doctors but embark on ‘‘white elephants projects which some of them may not even complete, such is a shame for this country.’’

Reflecting on the theme for the 2017 Physicians Week which he said ‘‘calls for sober reflection,’’ the NMA president said: ‘‘The 2006/2017 national immunisation coverage survey indicates that only 33 per cent of children 12 to 23 months of age had three doses of petavalent vaccine against the global target of 90 per cent and only 23 per cent were fully immunised. Forty per cent of them do not receive any vaccines from health system.

‘‘The implication of this finding is that large population of our children particularly under five years of are unprotected and are therefore at risk of dying from vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, diphtheria, pertussis, tuberculosis among others, and also in infectious risk to other children in near and distant places.”

He urged Nigerians to disregard rumour making the rounds that government was injecting poisonous substances in children through immunisation, saying such rumours were not true.
The NMA president regretted that the recent world health report which ranked Nigeria third among the nations with high mortality rates, saying it ‘‘was a bad one’’ for the country.
He also disclosed that NMA would step up aggressive enlightenment and advocacy campaign to correct the situation, and urged the media to partner it in the projects.