Harmony in health sector: Agenda for Buhari’s govt



As a new government takes over the leadership of the country, it has become imperative to lend a voice to the continual clamour for harmony in the health sector.

This is aimed at reinforcing those elements that could engender a convivial atmosphere in the entire health sector to the extent that going forward, the eagle would perch and the hawk too would perch. Only by so doing would the health system soar for the good of all the stakeholders.

In spite of its huge potential, the sector has been held back by inter-professional rancour to the detriment of the teeming and desperate patients now forced to seek accurate, reliable and reproducible medical diagnosis abroad.

Such an ugly trend can be halted if the various professional groups can imbibe an altruistic and accommodating spirit, and work towards the common good rather than the prevailing precipitous pursuit of self-interests, which achieves nothing except pandering to the unending demands of the ego.

By their training, healthcare professionals are meant to work together, as no single group of professionals can solve all the problems of the sector alone. The patients already know this. It is equally the essence of the much-applauded inter-professionalism in case management around the world. In this regard, a single case attracts the experience of a clinician, nurse, psychotherapist, pharmacist, medical laboratory scientists and so on. Each brings expertise to bear on the case for the good of the patient.

The entire team is, therefore, better placed to achieve a positive outcome rather than each working in isolation. The resultant applause or commendation is often huge and resounding enough to go round the participating professionals, so none loses out.

It is widely believed that the rot in the health sector started in 1985. Since then the health system has been on a downward spiral despite assurances by successive governments to make its transformation one of the cornerstones of their administration. Our current health indices speak are quite revealing in this respect.

Why should any professional group have to channel creative energy towards emasculating the others, rather than joining hands to extend the frontiers of the system for the common good? This has led to the deployment of tools, which contribute nothing except to further enlarge the divide between groups, which is sad.

As the rancour persists, the citizens who are often at the receiving end continue to lose confidence in the health system, and those who have the wherewithal are left with no choice but to embark on medical tourism.

APC senator-elect recently suggested that in the past few years, the country had spent over N150 billion on overseas treatments for government officials. He also noted that N50 billion, just a third of such a humongous sum could have transformed the National Hospital, Abuja into a centre of excellence. We couldn’t agree more. Fortunately, the lot has fallen on APC to make things right.

The situation is not helped by the fact that successive ministers of health and virtually all the directors of the ministry are drawn from the same profession. This engenders professional bias and territorialism. Yet the sector is wide and rewarding enough for every profession to thrive without insisting on the annihilation of the other as a precondition for peace and progress.

Nigerian patients are not interested in the ‘Animal Farm’, which the health sector now appears to be. They rather want the best medical laboratory diagnosis, the best clinical treatment and management as well as the best drug administration and guidance to ensure rapid and sustainable recovery of the individual patient as well as the entire health sector. Unfortunately, the system is failing to deliver on these and other counts because health professionals rather focus on the core reason for their calling, now seem to be more interested in mundane matters. This has brought us where we are today. The new regime should do its utmost to redress the issue of medical tourism to other places as the accompanying capital flight hurts our foreign exchange base.

It should start by looking to the point where and when things began to fall apart in the sector. The lessons learnt should help the government do things differently since it is an embodiment of positive change. It should furthermore, aim to build a robust, functional, efficient, accommodating system that recognizes and respects right of each group to aspire to the highest levels of their career.

The relevant Schemes of Service as well as pronouncements of various courts of competent jurisdiction, which have made it clear that the various professionals are different and independent of one another, have reinforced these facts.
* Prof Anthony O. Emeribe, Registrar/Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria.

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