Pharmacists Demand Equity in Health Sector Reform

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Pharmacists under the auspices of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) have drawn the attention of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, on the need to restructure the leadership of the country’s health sector for desirable equity amongst health workers and better healthcare delivery.

President of PSN, Professor Cyril Usifoh, who alleged imbalance in the composition of the Health Sector Reform Committee, headed by Prof. Osinbajo, observed that it negates the principle of equity and fairness, and discriminatory against some key professionals in the sector.

The PSN boss said, “We observe that of the 28 members, about 23 appear to be physicians while only 1 Pharmacist (PSN), a Nurse (NANNM) and a Laboratory Scientist (AMLSN), the DG, BPE and DG, Federal Consumer Protection Council are confirmed not to be physicians.

He said since the obnoxious Decree 10 of 1985 was enacted and physicians were placed in charge of the sector at all levels from the federal, state and LGA as well as the health institutions under their jurisdiction.

In the document titled: ‘Health Sector Reforms: The beat goes on’, Prof. Cyril Usifoh, said “that there was the need to inculcate more health professionals of diverse backgrounds into the committee.’’

He expressed PSN’s fears that the proposed Health Sector Reform Committee may face the challenges of previous reforms under past administrations, without immediate intervention of the federal government.

“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.

‘’Under the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, late Prof. Olu Akinkugbe, an emeritus Professor of Medicine led a Health Reform team which had a similar composition of physicians dominating overwhelmingly. But, the final report was dead on arrival because the positions, like what the Osinbajo Committee will most likely bring on the table, will be favourable to only the physicians. That will make it unacceptable to the preponderance of health professionals and workers who make up over 90 per cent of the membership of the Health Sector,” Usifoh said.

“Typical of the processes involved in the sharing of benefits packages, privileges and resources in the Health Sector, the Reform Committee with over 85 per cent presence of physicians already negates the rights and liberties of the majority of health workers in Nigeria. A committee of this nature has slots for the DG, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council, a lawyer, but not for an agency like NAFDAC which regulates all the drugs, medical devices, vaccines, medical equipment and chemicals etc, which are the essential tools and commodities which drive any credible Health System.’’

He further said that personalities like the Director of Hospital Services of the FMOH, DG NACA, MD, Federal Medical Centre, Ebute-Metta, who complement the overwhelming presence of physicians on the committee, and other health professionals especially those in Pharma manufacturing and importation have no place on the committee.

He said, “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, which is the umbrella template of over 90 per cent of health workers, is ignored in this health reform.

“Since the obnoxious Decree 10 of 1985 was enacted and physicians were placed in charge of the sector at all levels from the Federal, State and LGA as well as the health institutions under their jurisdiction.

‘’His Excellency, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, must note albeit realistically that the major area that needs to be critically evaluated in the health sector remains the structure of its leadership.

“Today as it stands, physicians believe skills acquisition and professional development must be the exclusive preserve of physicians while others cannot aspire to improve themselves through post-graduate programmes which impact.

“This is why NMA, the umbrella body of physicians, is opposed to the Consultant Cadre for Pharmacists in Nigeria. Nigerian Physicians also insist they head Medical Laboratories in Nigeria even when several courts of the land have ruled that Medical Laboratory Scientists have a professional discretion to exercise in this regard.

“These abuse potentials also apply to nursing as it took a lacklustre memo a few days ago from the FMOH to counsel the CMDs and MDs of FHIs to allow nurses practice in their specialty areas.”

Usifoh said the PSN would continue to opt for productive dialogue to enhance nation-building.

PSN prayed the federal government to urgently “reconstitute the Health Sector Reforms Committee by inculcating more Health professionals of diverse background, the representatives of Trade Unions in the Health Sector (JOHESU) which has over 90 per cent of the entire Health workforce in tandem with the norms of participatory democracy which places emphasis on equitable representation.