‘Probe Senate Public Hearing on Medical Council Bill’

The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), the umbrella body of health workers in the country, has demanded that Senate probe the recent public hearing of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Bill as it accused Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, of disenfranchising its members.

JOHESU Chairman, Comrade Joy Bio Josiah flayed what he called “vindictive and discriminatory” attitude of Dr. Oloriegbe against other medical professional bodies as he gave his constituency, MDC and NMA more time to canvass their views on the contentious bill.

“We challenge Oloriegbe and the NMA to produce video and audio evidence contrary to this. The point here is Oloriegbe does not understand the philosophy and basics of running Public Hearings because he pointedly dominates discussions and debates while outrightly disenfranchising the stakeholders.

“We must make the point that a third hearing (Public Hearing) at the National Assembly (NASS) even recognised personal contributions and not only group representation. Attempts to draw Oloriegbe’s attention to these facts were always met with threats of eviction by the Sergeant-at-Arms.

“JOHESU therefore insists that the Senate must probe the February 1, 2021 Hearing and reorganise the Senate Committee on Health to prevent vindictiveness associated with the tendencies of the NMA hierarchy is epitomized by Dr. Oloriegbe.”

Continuing he said: “Dr. Oloriegbe stretched his misnomer at the Public Hearings he has presided, vis the NHIS Amendment Bill and the February 1, 2021 Hearing by recognising his Medical Constituents above and over other stakeholders

“ Oloriegbe gave MDCN, NMA and a representative of Pathologists the floor three times spanning over 15 minutes while professions like Pharmacy, Medical Laboratory Science, Nursing, Radiography and JOHESU representative got two minutes each to canvass their positions.

“For the record, we assert boldly and responsibly that Dr. Oloriegbe, has been more tyrannical than any other Medical Doctor Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health.

“In the last 22 years of our democracy, the following including late Senator Martins Yellowe, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, now Governor of Delta State, and Dr. Lanre Tejuosho have been Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Health. JOHESU/AHPA or any of the other Health professional bodies never accused these Medics of bias at hearings,” he alleged.

Mr. Josiah, who described as a figment of the imagination of the Nigeria Medical Council (NMA) leadership, the accusation that JOHESU was blackmailing Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said it is “Typical of the contemporary leadership of the NMA that we have encountered in recent years. Those who authored the unfortunate NMA position dwelt extensively on propaganda, threats, blackmail and other acts of skullduggery”.

Insisting that JOHESU was a legitimate conglomerate of five registered trade unions in the health sector, he said If the NMA spokespersons were discerning wisely, they would have known that even the courts from the NICN, High Courts, Appeal Courts and the Supreme Court which have powers to interpret the laws have always recognised JOHESU as a juristic template.

“This is why it can sue and be sued. It is this stupendous ignorance that the NMA continues to exhibit which does not allow it to know that as a mere professional body, it should not be allowed to exercise the privilege of negotiating on behalf of its membership. The tragedy of this aberration is catalysed by their members who hold sway today at both the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity (FML&P).”

Mr. Josiah said that the claim by NMA that Medicine gave birth to other Health professions was very ridiculous. He asserted that all the health professions evolved from traditional and herbal medicine.

“Even if by default we accept the NMA’s claim, it is a matter of fact that the birth process by nature is sequential. One entity therefore must evolve before the other without taking away its rights and privileges like the NMA is noted for in Nigeria. The grab-grab syndrome and know-it-all attitude of Nigerian Doctors is what has wrecked our health system which has become the hallmark of negative health indices whereby we are placed as low as 187 out of 191 health systems globally.

He further said: “We therefore have a responsibility as loyal and dynamic citizens to reverse through constructive action especially by embracing global best practices in the Health options in ultimate public interest. JOHESU will continue to uphold this without caring about whose ox is gored.

He accused the NMA leadership in the last few years of reducing very serious matters to through diversionary tactics to the realm of ‘childish frivolity’ when it brands autonomous professions as allied to Medicine. “This amounts to grandeur of delusion and outright tomfoolery.”

“In one template NMA says the MDCN Bill is to regulate and control only Medical practitioners and Dentists. In desperation, the true intention is to violate the domain of Medical Laboratory Sciences and Radiography. This clearly manifests in Section 4(a) of the MDCN bill which states to wit “the MDCN shall make regulations for the operation and management of Clinical Diagnostic Centres”…

“In healthcare practice, who are the health professionals who work and manage Clinical Diagnostic Centres which are domiciled in Clinical/Medical Laboratories or X-ray Centres as well as related facilities? You do not have to be rich in common-sense to appreciate that this is a direct violation of the professional privileges of Medical Laboratory Scientists and Radiographers who hold sway in these diagnostic facilities.

He argued that “The NICN and several High Courts have validated the rights and powers of Medical Laboratory Scientists to take charge of the Medical Laboratory facilities through the instrumentality of the MLSCN Act, but even the FMOH aids its Medical Doctors to violate valid court orders and judgment in this regard. “Presently, the litigations have shifted to the Appellate Court at the instance of Medical Groups who are not satisfied with the plethora of court judgments against them.

“We observed with dismay at the February 1, 2021 Public Hearing that while Oloriegbe was reeling out his “decree” on the rules at that hearing, he insisted references must not be made to court processes or judgments.”

This is contrary to Order 41 of the Rules of Proceeding of the Senate which empowers the Senate to step down any matter that is pending in a law court when considering any Bill.

In the light of the foregoing, JOHESU is insisting that Section 4(9) must be expunged from the MDCN bill in its entirety in conformity with Order 41 of the Senate rules.

Mr. Josiah accused “Medical Doctors in Nigeria of lacking humility, even when they err.” After it was challenged that Doctors cannot carry the title of Apothecary because it is Pharmacists and Pharmacies that are globally Apothecaries, the NMA now says “while we may agree that the title “Apothecary” is not a title used by Doctors….. A sense of integrity should have compelled a more honourable group to accept it erred in simple terms.

He said: ‘’Healthcare remains a global and internationally driven practice. One of the golden rules and norms in the prescribing and dispensing of drugs is that both the prescriber and the dispenser of medicines are forbidden to have pecuniary interest or gain so that the patient enjoys the best clinical decision that must be made by the prescriber.

“It is interesting that in the MDCN draft bill, no consideration or thought was put in print for a next line of action in the absence of the Medical Doctor or Dentist.

Specifically, there was no clause to allow Nurses or any other practitioner to step in the shoes of the Doctor/Dentist which would have been within the jurisdiction of the MDCN. Rather strangely, the MDCN bill seeks to give Doctors/Dentists a loophole in the private sector especially to continue the many years of reckless use of drugs through untrained hands.

“This draft cannot legitimize the unlawful act of sales and dispensing of drugs by Doctors under whatever guise.

Continuing, he opined that “The scenario is what has entrenched and formalized quackery in the health system in Nigeria because private hospitals promote quackery through a periodic discharge of untrained elements. Such undesirable characters evolve as Auxiliary Nurses, Dispensing Assistants/Clerk etc.

According to him, “Section 45(3)(e) in its totality will encourage the continued exploitation of the Nigerian people because WHO studies confirm pecuniary indulgences of private hospital facilities in the sales and dispensing of drugs. The study declares that prices of drugs in private hospitals is 184% above baseline prices in public hospital pharmacies and 192% above what is obtainable in private pharmacies. It is this huge profit that has always incentivized private hospital facilities to unlawfully stock drugs when they also fail to engage Pharmacists.

“The way out remains that Doctors and private hospitals that cannot afford to engage Pharmacists should send their prescriptions to Community Pharmacies that are registered by PCN.

Mr. Josiah described as pedestrian and juvenile pedigree, NMA’s accusation that JOHESU is envious and jealousy, saying, “What is there to envy about a Nigerian Doctor? It is probably only at the public sector level where Doctors have been over-indulged by the bureaucracy that they appear to earn a semblance of a living wage. Asking for equity in this regard is a legitimate and constitutional right particularly because the constitution prohibits discrimination to citizens of Nigeria.

“Again, we admonish NMA to get beyond these self inflicted paranoia as it will continue to inflict severe psychological atrophy on the evolution of medical practice in our land.

The attempts to portray other health workers as dullards who want to get what they failed to get in school is laughable.

“We challenge NMA again using some of the best Universities in Nigeria. The JAMB results at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife was such that for the first time in recent years, Pharmacy and Medicine had the same cut-off mark. Pharmacy traditionally is higher than Medicine in that particular citadel of learning. Surprisingly, at least to many, Nursing had a higher cut-off mark than Medicine at OAU, Ile-Ife in the current academic year. At University of Lagos (UNILAG), the cut-off mark for Pharmacy and Dentistry was the same, while at University of Ibadan (UI), Pharmacy was higher than Dentistry and Veterinary Medicine.

“Where is the superiority complex therefore coming from? It is just a manifestation of delusional tendencies of people who have refused to face new realities,” he said.

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