Medical consultants write Jonathan, demand release of Yayale-Ahmed report on health sector

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The Medical and Dental Consultants’ Association of Nigeria, MDCAN, has called on President Goodluck Jonathan to release the report of the Presidential Committee of Experts In Inter-Professional Relationship in the Public Health Sector, otherwise known as the Mahmmud Yayale Ahmed-led Committee report, including its views, decisions and White Paper.

In an open letter addressed to the President, through its Principal Solicitor and Counsel, Jiti Ogunye, Esq. MDCAN informed the President that despite his inauguration of the committee which carried out its assignment within 15 months and submitted its report to the President, he has refused to officially publish the report nor implement it.

Continued delay, failure or refusal by the President to release, implement and make its views and decisions known on the report, the group threatened, “could amount to a dereliction of public duty, which may be cured by an order of mandamus duly applied for and appropriately issued by a court of competent jurisdiction, compelling the Federal Government of Nigeria to release the said Report, and the views and decisions of the Government thereon.”

MDCAN emphasized that failure of the President to publish and implement the report “would not only be a disservice to the crisis ridden health sector in particular, but also Nigeria in general.”

It opined that acting on the report would bring to an end perennial crisis of needless competition that plague the sector.

MDCAN said it “believes that the release of this Report and views and decisions of the Federal Government of Nigeria thereon may help cure the erroneous but pervasive assumptions of non-existing rights being claimed by non-medical health workers in the sector, which have been the driving force of their virulent and poisonous agitations against the lead roles being played in the public health sector (and health sector in general) in Nigeria by medical doctors.

“The complaint of domination, subordination, and discrimination which has now become the battle cry for the inordinate and self-aggrandizing desire of non-medical health workers to fragment and segment our public health institutions, which until now, has been operating as integrated entities, into disjointed autonomous theatres merely to feed the illusion of independent territorialities, can be resolved by the immediate release of the said Report and the views and decisions of Government on the recommendations that were made in the Report.”

It blamed the Federal Government for its posture to pandering to the “whims and caprices of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations, (AHPA), and indulge them, ostensibly to placate and propitiate them so that they do not continue to disrupt the public health sector by strikes.

“Meetings were being held, decisions were being taken, and circulars were being issued on contentious issues in the health sector, including issues being sat and deliberated upon by the Presidential Committee of Experts in Inter-Professional Relationship in the Public Health Sector.”

The doctors condemned the outcome of a meeting between the Federal Government and JOHESU where they claimed three broad issues were discussed and agreements reached.

The issues are grant of consultancy statuses to other health care professionals and approval of payment of specialist allowance to other health care professionals other than medical and dental practitioners, in all tertiary health institutions in the Country; abolition of the post of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee ( DCMAC) in all Teaching Hospitals, Medical Centres and other tertiary health institutions, in the Country; and reference of a number of matters, including the review of the procedure and process of appointment of Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Teaching Hospitals, appointment of Directors of Departments in the Hospitals.

“Firstly, the meeting was said to have communicated that a circular No. MH/PM/138/Vol.111/79 of 16th May, 2014 had been released by Government, formally restoring consultancy statuses to other health care professionals and approving the payment of specialist allowance to other health care professionals other than medical and dental practitioners.

“In line with this so-called circular, JOHESU/AHPA have directed that all their members who are due and have satisfied the existing criteria, as upheld by a court judgment, for consultancy positions, should apply for the payment of the allowance with its accrued arrears with effect from 1st January, 2010 in line with the CONHESS Circular Reference SWC/S/04/S.410/Vol.11/349, dated 8th December 2009.

“Secondly, the meeting was said to have accepted JOHESU & AHPA’s position and demand, and accordingly agreed to abolish the post of Deputy Chairman Medical Advisory Committee (DCMAC). JOHESU/AHPA’ position is that the establishment and existence of that post is unlawful, and that no further appointment should be made into the post.

“Thirdly, the meeting was said to have agreed to refer a number of issues to the Yayale Ahmed Committee.

“These issues include the review of the process of appointment of Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors of Teaching Hospitals and the agitation of JOHESU & AHPA that appointment of Chief Medical Directors and Medical Directors be made from permanent staff of the teaching hospitals rather than from the universities; the alleged lopsidedness of advertorial for appointment of CMDs/MDs, which is skewed in favour of medical and dental practitioners, and the agitation of JOHESU & AHPA that the appointment process be made open to all “competent and qualified” health professionals; the Abdullahi Bello Presidential Committe Report on Harmony in the Health Sector; and the interpretation of the phrase “medically qualified,” MDCAN added.

MDCAN further expressed its disagreements with these decisions, stressing that granting “arbitrary, anti-health care delivery concessions in the health sector by agents and agencies of government, just to placate and appease some workers in the health sector, even when those concessions, on the long term, will inevitably lead to the destruction of the health care delivery system in our Country is not good for Nigeria.

“Our Client has repeatedly maintained that it is high time the system stopped granting concessions that will ruin the health care delivery system to a resentful and conspiratorial segment of the health sector workforce on the altar of political expediency, and in the illusion that doing so is the best way to guarantee industrial harmony.”

The doctors further argued that it was the duty of dental consultants to decide who works with them while treating any patient. Besides, MDCAN explained granting the status of a consultant to any other professional in the sector other than the doctors would amount to multiplicity of consultants and also lead to conflict. MDCAN said it gives accounts of how patients are treated and that it is the only one that could be sued if patients are dissatisfied with treatment.

The group therefore expressed fears that the constitutionally guaranteed right of patients to life will be in jeopardy if non-medical doctors are appointed as consultants.

“When patients die or are dissatisfied with care, it is the Consultant that is sued rather than the nurses. Being medical doctors who swore to the Physician’s Oath, and being medical and dental consultants-the eminent class in the medical profession, members of MDCAN are duty-bound to protect lives of Nigerians and non-Nigerians who are passing through Nigeria’s health care delivery system.”

It mentioned the case of ten consultants at the University College, Ibadan, that were upheld by the National Industry Court of Nigeria, NICN, which it informed the government and its association had appealed against.

Meanwhile, MDCAN warned if its demand is not met, it would not hesitate to institute a legal action against the Federal Government, with a view to compelling the government to perform the public duty of releasing the said report and officially communicating and publishing its views and decisions on it.

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