JOHESU Lobbies N’Assembly to Step Down Medical Council Bill

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Health workers in the country under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) are demanding that the National Assembly step down the Medical Doctors and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Bill to avoid a fresh crisis in the nation’s healthcare sector.

The union, which is the umbrella body of health workers argued that the document was retrogressive and not in the interest of the nation, alleged that the main objective of the MDCN Bill was to expand the discriminatory and oppressive tendencies of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) over other health workers in the country; and “should be stopped”.

It noted that Section 4(9) of the proposed MDCN Bill aims to bring the Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria (MLSCN) under the control of Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, declaring it as direct conflict with Section 4(b) and Section 29 of the MLSCN Act CAP 525 LFN 2004, insisting that it was an attempt to bring Medical Laboratory Scientists under its control.

National Chairman of JOHESU, Bio Joy Josiah, argued that the National Assembly should not encourage the destabilisation of existing independently regulated practices by supporting illegality.

Section 4 (9) in the Bill states inter alia “Notwithstanding the provision of any other Act to the contrary, the Council shall to the exclusion of any other person or body, perform the following functions: Making regulations for the operation and management of clinical diagnostic centres for the practice of Pathology or Radiology and other branches of Medicine and Dentistry determined by Council, provided that the regulations shall provide for fully registered practitioners to manage the diagnostic centres.

JUHESU said, “The MDCN Bill Act must limit its scope of regulation to its Medical Doctors and Dentists.” Section 4(9) of the proposed Bill should be completely expunged.”

While it reminded the National Assembly that the issue of the Regulatory Agency which had powers to regulate and control Clinical/Medical Laboratory practice in the field of Pathology was a pending suit at the Court of Appeal, Mr. Josiah warned NASS not to be involved in the chaos already existing in the health sector.

‘’In line with the existing rules of the proceedings of the National Assembly not to consider legislating on matters before the court, we draw the attention of the Senate Committee on Health to the fact that the issue of the Regulatory Agency which has powers to regulate and control Clinical/Medical Laboratory practice in the field of Pathology is an on-going suit at the Court of Appeal which is expected to determine the Regulatory Agency in Healthcare which has a specific approbation in law to regulate and control Clinical/Medical Laboratory practice in Nigeria.

Continuing, he said “For the records, the NICN in Suit No. NICN/ABJ/284/201 had ruled that MLSCN has such powers in Nigeria.”

“The Committee further enjoined NASS to note the interpretation of Medical Laboratory Science in Section 29. Medical Laboratory Science means “The practice involving the analysis of human or animal tissues, body fluids, excretions, production of biological design and fabrication of equipment for the purpose of Medical Laboratory diagnosis, treatment and research and includes Medical Microbiology, Clinical Chemistry, Chemical Pathology, Haematology, Blood transfusion, Science, Virology, Histopathology, Histochemistry, Immunology, Cytogenetic, Exfoliative Cytology, Parasitology, Forensic Science, Molecular Biology, Laboratory management or any other related subject as may be approved by the Council.

JOHESU also questioned Section 42(1) Subject to subsection (4) of this section, which says no person other than a registered medical practitioner shall (b) take or use the title of physician, surgeon, doctor or licentiate of medicine, medical practitioner, or apothecary 42(2) subject to section (4) of this section. It also faulted the provisions which says no person other than a registered dental surgeon shall (b) take or use the title of a dental surgeon, doctor, dentist, dental officer, or dental practitioner.

The body further advised NASS to, “Amend section 42(1) b to read (b) take or use the title of physician, surgeon or licentiate of medicine or medical practitioner. Amend Section 42(2) b to read (b) take or use the title of a dental surgeon, dentist, dental officer or dental practitioner.

In the document, JOHESU posited that, “In tandem with due process it is the NUC by virtue of its enabling act that has powers to draw and approve the curriculum of all Academic programmes in Nigeria. If the NUC has graciously approved Doctor of Pharmacy, Doctor of Optometry, Doctor of Physiotherapy, and related programmes in the Health Sector, the MDCN has no statutory powers to decree that holders of these degrees and titles cannot bear the title of doctors neither can such constitute an offence within the purview of law.

It further argued that “There is a legion of undergraduate programmes globally today where appropriate authorities have approved titles including, Doctor of Law, Doctor of Theology, Doctor of Arts, etc.”

Adding that “In the Health sector it is important to stress that Doctor based programmes are professional degrees and not doctorate.”

The body of health workers recognised the role of National Maternal and Prenatal Death Surveillance and Response Bill in healthcare policy and planning, but faulted its structure.

“Matters pertaining to the National Maternal and Prenatal Death Surveillance and Response are germane in healthcare policy and planning. However, setting up statutory structures to drive this as an autonomous agenda under the FMOH does not look strategic in view of the many bureaucratic appendages that will be associated with such endeavours.

“The National Assembly must set the right examples in legislating because the Government cannot be conveying the impression that there is a paucity of funds to cater for existing statutory MDAs, but still attempts to create new structures that must be funded.

“We suggest albeit very strongly that this bill be stepped down and that the good work already articulated be used as a stepping stone and working document to set up appropriate committees under the Primary Healthcare Development Agency which is our primary option because it is the ideal template to drive this function.”

Describing the Advanced Healthcare Development Fund Bill (AHDF) as obsolete, JOHESU argued that it was retrogressive. “The bill takes us back to the military era where privileges were reserved for one profession in a multidisciplinary sector contrary to Section 42A and B of the 1999 Constitution.”

The AHDF bill seeks to maintain infrastructures in tertiary healthcare service delivery which is also one of the functions of the Tertiary Healthcare Institution Committee set up in Section 9 of the National Health Act.

According to Mr. Bio Josiah, JOHESU recommends the full implementation of the National health Act as a panacea to avoid a “grab-grab syndrome by respective professions and regulatory agencies in Health in the dispensation of professional privileges and rights in Nigeria.”

“Most of the responsibilities being canvassed in the bill have been and can be merged with the proposed Federal Tertiary Teaching Hospital Development Tax Fund Bill. In view of a dire need to reduce public expenditure on unnecessary bureaucratic structure, we strongly recommend that this bill be stepped down,” he said.