21 January 2013

Nigeria: Health Workers Renew Call for Minister's Sack

Joint Health Sector Union has renewed its demand for the removal of health minister Onyebuchi Chukwu, nearly a month after its first call for his sack during a protest in December.

It also called for establishment of sense of teamwork and harmony in the health sector and vowed to "continue our campaign much more fervently across the country from January 2013, if these demands are not heeded."

In a statement condemning the health ministry's and doctors' reactions to its December protest, JOHESU chairperson, Ayuba Wabba, said reactions from both the minister and Nigerian Medical Association confirmed "our argument and position that Prof Chukwu is more of a minister of medical practitioners than the honourable minister of health."

Among its grievances, JOHESU--an umbrella group of technologists, nurses, pharmacists, midwives, and professionals in health-related and allied sectors--has accused the minister of seeking to "institutionalise the professional chauvinism of medical and dental practitioners as against international best practice".

It also faulted him for Nigeria's poor health indices and inconsistencies in the national health bill.

But the health ministry had described the protest as "orchestrated." A statement from Dan Nwomeh, the minister's special adviser on communications said Chukwu "is known to abhor the syndrome of "settlement", but insists on justice and equity and due process at all times, and will not be distracted or blackmailed with misguided protests and strikes."

But Wabba said JOHESU had "no partisan leaning or affiliation whatsoever in our coalition," adding, "The strategy of name-calling and alibi leaving the issues raised smacks of the dictatorial mien that medical practitioners have brought to bear in the health sector."

JOHESU has argued against "continued exclusive role of medical practitioners as the Chief Executive of hospitals" and manipulations by the minister "seeking to change the statutory schemes of service and regulatory laws of other health professions on the prompting of NMA and the Medical and Dental Consultants' Association (MDCAN), an avowed agenda and manifesto of the NMA president [Osahon Enabulele]."

JOHESU shot back at NMA's description of the December protest as an attempt to scuttle the Health Bill, saying it was a "nauseating distortion.

It argued it was "in the forefront of the quest" for the bill and played "critical roles" in the initial draft presented by former health minister Eyitayo Lambo.

"The truth...is that the letter and spirit of the earlier bill have been distorted by NMA and medical practitioners with Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu as their arrow head, sacrificing well-thought out mechanisms and processes for quality healthcare to Nigerians on the altar of medical doctors "supremacy," said Wabba.

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