Dr Mike Ogirima is the President of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). In this interview, he speaks on quackery,practice licence and the disharmony in the health sector among other issues.
What’s the umbrella of your focus?
We have spent nine months in an administration that’s supposed to span two years. Our agenda is to bridge the so many dichotomies in the health industry. There is so much disharmony and over the years we have allowed it to affect the care of our patient, which is supposed to be the central person in the health sector. To the point that we are gradually neglecting the patient. Doctors, nurses, lab men, pharmacists. This administration came in with that thrust, a bridge agenda to move the health sector forward. And that we have religiously followed.
What sort of results is that yielding?
There are more interactions between various professionals in the health sector. We visit pharmacists, they visit us. We are at their activities, even the lab professionals. We are showing them transparency in leadership. We have said gone are the days when you call a professional for negotiation of salary. We say no to that. We are going to have a joint negotiation, which has started already with the ministry of health. A lot is being done to douse that tension. With that once we have a joint welfare negotiation, the care of our patient will be paramount in our minds. We won’t have distractions with wages, as long as the government is transparent in implementing agreements reached with various professionals.
That comes back to welfare. How soon will those positives trickle down to patients?
As long as we can avert crisis—like withdrawal of services from our hospitals by the professionals involved—if we can do that, in the long run the patient will benefit. How soon? I don’t know. The ball is on the government table. They churn out policies, implement policies and programmes. So if they are sincere with their change mantra, very soon.
Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and NMA have been deeply concerned about quackery. How big still is that?
There is no study, but based on complaints I receive as an association, I think there is an increase. Because there is economic recession. Patients cannot afford the high cost of medicament or surgeries from our orthodox hospitals. They revert to alternative therapies, they go to spiritual homes, to places where they can’t get quality health care. At the end of the day, they are maimed. And it is the result of that wrong treatment given to them that we receive as complaint. Before you can label someone a doctor, he must be licensed to practise and have adequate training in that field. Most of these cases that are paraded as being quacks are not doctors, because they are not licensed, they don’t even have the training.
MDCN complains some doctors are reluctant to renew their licences, which should be a source of income for the council. Why would any doctor be reluctant to renew his licence?
The MDCN is not doing its work. For 20 months now, that function has not been functioning just because of one careless statement from the former permanent secretary. Other regulatory non-medical, non-health-related councils are functioning. But because the former permanent secretary doesn’t want the composition of that council in time at that point to vote, she wrote and said, there is an order that all boards…I mean, councils are not boards. Council is a regulatory body. That is why we are having a pile up of cases to deal with. There is a tribunal that can deal with such cases, with a high court status. For 20 months now, the council cannot sit. But the association is fighting hard to ensure this year that council sits and adjudicates on issues.
Some doctors are reluctant because the council is not functioning. If the council can function—at state level we have monitoring committees comprising NMA, and director of medical services of each state. If the head is weak, the tail will be weak. If the central MDCN is functional to make sure each state becomes functional, and each state will go after quackery.
As an association, we have set up the medical intelligence committee, to look for any case of quackery, especially as it relates to our members.
Why don’t doctors display their updated practice licence on the wall of their consulting rooms, as recommended by MDCN?
So far people are not doing their job. Since we came in the last nine months, we have drawn up a strategy plan. Included in that plan, is that each licensed doctor must have his own stamp. If you come to me and I give you a prescription, there is a stamp on the prescription. Once you don’t have that stamp, no pharmacist, chemist should dispense such drugs. Once those drugs are dispensed without that stamp, that chemist or pharmacist is held liable.
An actual stamp or just a signature?
An actual stamp bearing your [folio] number. We have proposed that, and as an association we will produce that in conjunction with MDCN
What about having your licence displayed?
That is minute. Anybody can hang anything in the office. But that stamp, it is the COREN [Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria] stamp that must be seen on your building plan before it is approved.
Source: The Daily Trust
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