This Day (Lagos)

30 January 2013

Nigeria: NMA Wants Foreign Medical Trips for Public Officials Restricted

As part of its contribution toward checking the exodus of Nigerians to foreign countries for medical treatment, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) has reaffirmed the need for the enforcement of a policy restricting foreign medical travels by public and political office-holders at tax payers' expense, especially for conditions that could be safely managed in Nigeria.

It also warned health practitioners who specialise in referring patients abroad through commissioned agents for financial returns to desist from such habit.

Offering to assist embassies to scrutinise referral forms, the association urged the Federal Ministry of Health and all embassies to set effective modalities for screening all referral forms sent abroad.

These were contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the NMA's first national health summit recently concluded in Asaba, Delta State, and signed by its President, Dr. Osahon Enabulele, and Secretary-General, Dr. Akpufuoma Pemu.

The communiqué, which was read to journalists in Abuja yesterday, said: "The summit called on Nigerians to always look inwards as exemplified by Capt. Ichalla Idris Wada, the governor of Kogi State, for solutions to their medical treatment as Nigeria is blessed with medical experts in virtually all fields of medicine."

The communiqué, read by Enebulele disclosed that as part of its contributions to improving access to healthcare by Nigerians, especially as Nigeria approaches its centenary anniversary, the NMA would expand the scope of its four-monthly health/surgical missions to various zones of the country in the hope that by 2014, no Nigerian would have cause to harbour basic medical and surgical conditions such as inguino-scrotal hernia.

It also wants the entrenchment of health rights as justice-able fundamental human rights in the Nigerian Constitution currently undergoing a review.

Enebulele reiterated the need for speedy passage of the National Health Bill to allow for the utilisation of the two per cent of the consolidated revenue fund provided in the draft legislation to strengthen primary healthcare and boost access to health care facilities by Nigerians in rural areas.

To curtail the disruption of health services through incessant and indiscriminate strikes by medical and health workers, NMA banned all its affiliate groups and state branches, including that of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), from going on strike without first seeking clearance from the national headquarters.

Enebulele said where "extremely unavoidable after exploring all options at constructive dialogue," such strikes must conform to extant laws and the provisions of the code of medical ethics.

"Any violation of the foregoing shall be met with appropriate sanctions by the association," he warned.

"In the same vein, the summit charged the leadership of the various health institutions to proactively prevent strikes in their institutions."

The NMA called for the immediate restoration of the "prematurely" dissolved governing council of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, to enable it run its full term as its absence was impeding its regulatory activities, particularly in the critical areas of trials and sanctioning erring medical and dental practitioners, regulation of medical practice and medical education, as well as in the delivery of quality health care to Nigerians.

It also enjoined the MDCN to regularly carry out inspection of accredited medical colleges to ensure that standards were not compromised or jettisoned after securing accreditation, just as it pledged to work actively with the MDCN, the National Universities Commission, and other stakeholders to expedite the review of the curricula to bring them in line with current local and global necessities and realities.

According to the communiqué, the summit sought inter-professional harmony in the sector through a resolution of the conflicts and contradictions in the system.

It however faulted the Bill for an Act to provide for Medical Professionals' Indemnity to Establish the Medical Negligence Complaints Committee, Repeal Section 45 of the National Health Insurance Scheme and for Matters Connected Thereto (otherwise known as the Medical Negligence Bill) currently being sponsored by Hon. Robinson Uwak.

The summit hinged its disapproval of the bill on the fact that it defeats the very purpose of professionalism.

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