Medical Consultants Begin Nationwide Strike Today

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By Seriki Adinoyi

Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN) has restated its resolve to begin a nationwide strike from today over the refusal of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to withdraw its circular demanding that clinical lecturers in medical schools must possess a PhD degree as a prerequisite for career progression.

Addressing a press conference in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday, the consultants who had given an ultimatum to NUC since January to withdraw the circular, said there was no going back on the strike, which will involve total withdrawal from teaching undergraduate medical students.

It, however, added that it will continue to attend to patients in the hospitals.

President of MDCAN, Professor Kenneth Ozoilo, said: “We are deeply appalled by the fact that the NUC, through no less a personality than its Executive Secretary (ES), would stoop so low as to resort to lies and outright falsehood to advance its vested position.

Referring to a media publication in which NUC Executive Secretary, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, was quoted as saying that the circular never prescribed PhD as a requirement for them (clinical lecturers) to teach in the colleges of medicine, Ozoilo said, “This is a distortion of the contents of the circular.”

He added that the claim by the NUC executive secretary that the circular only said that PhD is desirable but not necessary for progression in medical education “is an outright lie.”

Ozoilo said: ”Page 1 paragraph two line five of the NUC circular NUC/ES/138/VOL.63/52 of December 24, 2019 explicitly stated that the PhD is for career progression, especially for those in the academia. The implication of this is that those who wish to lecture must acquire a PhD to be able to advance in the system where heretofore, they did not.

“Again, in paragraph 9 of the publication, the ES is quoted as saying that if you are a consultant, you will continue to be promoted, but if you have a PhD, your promotion will be faster. This is disinformation designed to deceive the general public. In nowhere throughout the 13 paragraphs of the two-page document of the NUC is this stated or even faintly implied.

“On the contrary, section iii (a) of the circular goes ahead to provide that for candidates with full fellowships of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria (NPMCN), the West African College of Physicians (WACP) or the West African College of Surgeons (WACS), the course work shall be waived. However, they shall be required to submit and defend a thesis for graduation in 24 months. If full fellows (including professors of medicine) require PhD, to what rank will they be promoted?

“Also, for those not yet in the professorial cadre, none of the scenarios painted by the ES in paragraph 9 of the publication (to hasten promotion) is captured anywhere in the said circular. The ES is quoted as saying PhD is recommended but not compulsory. But the circular says PhD is for career progression: who is fooling who?

“Obviously, this duplicity and insincerity on the part of the NUC is not new as it has underpinned the attitude with which they have related with us over the years concerning this matter. This is what has sadly made it impossible to make any meaningful progress on this issue and has led us to where we are on it today.”

Ozoilo also lamented the display of pride by the commission in which it equated MDCAN to students.

He said: “Equally tragic is the combative stance of the ES, who rather than seeking ways of reaching a reasonable resolution, prefers to carry on in the manner of an overlord who is being irritated by lowly minions not worthy of his attention.

“This explains the air of superiority on display and the choice of equating clinical lecturers (including professors of international repute) to students not worthy of consideration in decision making. Hopefully, this will help the discerning public understand why, two months into this imbroglio, the NUC has not deemed it fit to dignify any of our communications on this issue with a response, not to talk of any meaningful engagement.”

Ozoilo explained that there was no basis for the comparison between fellowship and the PhD, adding that “it is an established fact that the curriculum content of the fellowship far outstrips that of the PhD.”

According to him, “while the PhD is a predominantly academic pursuit, the fellowship is both academic and professional and as of today, is the minimum qualification required to practice as a specialist and to teach medicine.”

He said while the union was not against its members acquiring PhDs, it objected to mass production and enforcement by fiat for its acquisition.