‘Health bank would revolutionalise private medical practice in Nigeria’
Dr. Omo- Ehijele Frank Odafen is the President, Association of General and Private Medical and Dental Practitioners of Nigeria also known as Nigerian Private Doctors Association. In this interview with EMEKA ANUFORO in Abuja, he speaks on the Association’s upcoming conference with a call on government to create a health bank to boost health care.Excerpts:
On the Association’s efforts to boost healthcare
Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) is the umbrella organization for all medical and dental doctors in private practice either as owners or employees.
Every year we have the Annual General Meeting and the Scientific Conference. Last year, it took place in Akure, Ondo State. It is the turn of the Federal Capital Territory to host this year. It will move to Osogbo, Osun State next year. It moves from state to state.
The theme for this year is ‘Communicable Diseases.’ Communicable diseases constitute a major part of the health burden affecting our entire citizenry. It is of immense importance because communicable diseases are preventable. The maxim is “prevention is better than cure.”
So, we want to nib it in the bud, and discuss what to do to prevent such diseases and how best to treat it. We will also go into the rehabilitative and health aspect of it and the health education aspect.We are going to give it a holistic approach.
We are also going to be talking about cancer screening. Unlike before, in the contemporarily scientific world, most of the cancers are preventable and when they are detected earlier, they are immediately curable. The cancer screening is for prevention. Cancer is such that if it is not detected early, it could be life threatening and lead to fatality.
During the conference we are gong to be bringing our colleagues from diverse backgrounds, trained professional groups and some specialty of medicine from early part of this country. We will interpret and cross-fertilize our ideas and come up with policies for confronting health issues.
On relationship with government and other stakeholders
Our association is in direct alliance with government at all levels, federal and state to help government combat health issues, relieve health burdens and make life better for our people.
We are also inviting international medical authorities to talk to us. For instance, the President of the World Organization of Family Doctors would be here. The President of the Malaysian Academy of Family Medical Science would also be here. The Royal College of General Medical Practitioners will be here.
We are bringing the crème de la crème of medical science and entrepreneurship to Abuja. We will use the opportunity to do some corporate social responsibility. There will be free medical service and some free surgeries will be carried out. Primary and secondary level medical interventions will be carried out freely. We have invited a lot of government functionaries, from the President down and most of them have indicated their interest to attend.
It is the highest level of medical issues as far as private practice is concerned. We believe that best standards should be maintained in our practices. Ethical standards should be embraced in our practices. And since we are Nigerians on the main, and by our vocation, we are telling ourselves that in all situations, the health of our patients should be the first consideration. Other things will follow.
On challenges faced by private medical practitioners
We want to use the opportunity to let government know that we, in private medical practice, have tremendous, enormous capacity to make the difference in the health sector of this country. We have specialists in every inch of medical field. We will use the opportunity of our conference to let government know our challenges, paramount among which is over taxation of doctors. Private medical practitioners are suffering from over taxation.
This could be ameliorated. As good citizens of this country, we know we have to pay tax. But we must not be treated as purely commercial entities, because medical service is social, and only a little commercial. When most government facilities are closed down either because of strike or whatever, the private health sector holds the forte for the nation. Government should help us take us into account in policy formulation. Government can help us by first having special health fund through which functional and organic development of private medical practices can be inculcated.
Government can also create what is called a health bank where private medical practitioners can go to and source for funds. One of the mitigating factors to excellent health care delivery is the venture capital. Private medical practitioners are not able to access facilities in bank because the interest rate is astronomical. But if government creates health banks and we can get single unit interest rate, that would be really wonderful.
We have realized that over time, medical tourism has become the plague into our national economy and finance. There is serious, unenviable capital flight.
We are determined as a body to block this, to eliminate this from our national psyche. We can only do this if government cooperates with us in every way. Since we have the capacity, we have the base, we have the spread, and we can help government o curb capital flight.
Rather, when we bring our efforts together, Nigeria can become the reference point and medical hub for Africa or at least the entire sub-region. Instead of capital flight, there will be capital inflow. People will come from all parts of West Africa, and indeed Africa, as they go to India, to Nigeria. We have the knowledge and skill. But the equipment are the things hampering or phenomena; interventions in healthcare issues. We believe so much in the change mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari and we are ready to cooperate with government. We believe that in the next few years, health care indices, healthcare delivery would be comparable with the one from Western countries.
On programmes lined up for the conference
The conference kicks off this weekend from the 8th with prayers in the mosque. On Saturday we have medical health mission. We will have prayers in churches on Sunday for the success of our conference and for the government of this nation to succeed.
From Monday we have capacity building programmes for doctors, capacity building programmes, surgical procedures, and new methods of doing things primarily for ourselves.
The groundbreaking ceremony will be on Thursday, April 14. From Thursday to Saturday, other events follow. During the closing dinner, we will have the award of distinguished medical practitioner and patriots. We also have scientific sessions where our local and international colleagues will reflect on qualitative and excellent healthcare delivery for Nigeria.
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