Against the backdrop of criticism that medical bodies are in the habit of protecting their members who are on the wrong side of the law, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), has refuted the claim, saying the allegation does not reflect the true state of things.
Speaking at the just-concluded 53rdAnnual General Conference / Delegates Meeting of the association, which took place at the University of Lagos, Akoka, on 2nd May, the medical doctor explained that it will be wrong for anybody to openly condemn medical bodies in such manner.
The conference with the theme, “e-Health and its potentials for improving health care delivery in Nigeria,” attracted several medical doctors, top health officials, government functionaries and representatives of NMA state branches.
According to him, a lot has been written in the media and said at different times, even at the National Assembly, about the seeming inability of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to sanction erring members.
“This has culminated in the sponsoring of a bill in the National Assembly by an honourable member, obviously seeking to criminalise medical negligence and malpractice, as well as causing the Nigeria Police to now prosecute doctors who are alleged to have erred in their responsibilities,” he noted.
The NMA president reiterated that his association does not shield any of her members proven to have erred in their duties. He declared that NMA, as a body, has always taken action on proven cases, including referral of some cases to MDCN, for necessary action.
Enabulele further said that the nation should note that the MDCN is handicapped by the fact that there is currently no judge / council chairman to preside over investigated cases brought before it. He recalled that the Medical and Dental Practitioners’ Act (MDP Act) provides that only the chairman of council shall preside over the tribunal (which has the status of a high court).
“In the last 10 years or more, the Governing Council of the MDCN has cumulatively not been in place for more than four years. The last council was dissolved in 2010, with no replacement. All calls made to the government to inaugurate the council have, so far, not yielded any result,” he stressed.
While bemoaning the development, the president intoned that, rather than enacting another bill that will simply complicate matters and end up producing no positive result, the National Assembly can help the situation by incorporating the MDP Act into the Nigerian constitution. This would be like the Federal Judicial Service Commission and the National Judicial Council, with clear uninterrupted tenure for members of council.
“The council should be allowed to exist in perpetuity. This is the only way for progress, and not by multiplicity of Acts. As it stands, the Nigeria Police has too many outstanding cases it has competence to handle, and should not be further burdened with matters it has no competence or knowledge about,” he said.
In his words, “Medicine and dentistry are professions, like law, and are therefore self-regulatory.”
In a related development, Enabulele also made a clarion call on the National Assembly to do all they can to quickly pass the National Health Bill, despite the temporary setback suffered during the consideration of the bill by the senate.
“We wish to repeat that no amount of resources, including allocation of a minimum of 2 per cent of the consolidated fund of the federation to the National Primary Health Care Development Fund, should be considered too much to invest in health, which is a critical ingredient for engendering national prosperity,” he emphasised.
As expected, the NMA president addressed the Lagos State Government over its sustained policy on ‘casualisation’ of doctors, and its refusal to implement CONMESS salary structure for health practitioners in public service.
“We wish to appeal to His Excellency, our executive governor. Since you have done well in other sectors, we believe you can and would put a smile on the faces of your doctors once again,” he pleaded.
In his earlier address, Enabulele defined e-health as a safe, secure, ethical and cost-effective transmission, as well as exchange of health data and information. He declared that the NMA is willing to collaborate with the Federal Government through the Ministry of Health, as well as the Ministry of Communication and Technology, to urgently put in place an effective strategy for implementation of e-health in Nigeria.