JOHESU & AHPA call for inclusive decision-making in the ministry of health
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to redress the continued exclusive preference for medical practitioners in the top echelons of the health sector’s decision-making structures. This call was made in a letter appraising the recent ministerial appointments into the ministry signed by Comrade Biobelemoye Josiah, the MHWUN National President as National Chairman of JOHESU and Dr G. C. Okara, Chairman of the Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations.
Pointing out that, contrary to the acrimonious results generated by similar approaches in the past, both the Minister of Health and the Minister of State for Health are both medical practitioners. In the letter, issued on November 23, JOHESU and AHPA pointed out that the dangers of this self-evident step in the wrong direction have started manifesting. The concrete example given which is a provocative reality was the demands presented to the Hon Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adewole by the leaderships of both the Nigeria Medial Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on November 13.
The need for industrial harmony cannot be overemphasized if positive change is to be brought to the health sector. This requires mutual respect and working as a team. The current ministerial appointments into the sector will not augur well for this goal. It might however not be late in the day for the federal government to take requisite action and redress the situation.
The full text of the letter is as follows:
November 23, 2015
President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR
Aso Rock Villa
APPRAISING APPOINTMENTS IN THE FEDERAL MINISTRY OF HEALTH.
We bring you glad tidings of the approaching yuletide season and of the end of year.
For Nigeria it has been an eventful year under your distinguished leadership and we can only hope it get better.
While Nigeria appears to be on course for a great future, we are worried that the ever boiling Health Sector appears to be headed for more heated discourse especially against the background of recent appointments in the leadership strata of the Federal Ministry of Health.
Your Excellency, we concede that the Constitution gives you a legal leverage to appoint your Ministers in the bid to steer the ship of the state. We have tried to be understanding and matured in the strong hope that your administration’s change mantra will bring long expected succour to our ailing Health Sector.
Your Excellency, the appointment of two Medical Doctors as Ministers in Charge of the Federal Ministry of Health equaled the precedence of former President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR, which unfortunately catalyzed unprecedented dislocation of the component elements of the Health Sector in that dispensation.
The only ameliorating balm in that discourse (the Old Jonathan Order) was that the Permanent Secretary in Charge of the Federal Ministry of Health were always administrators or non-care providers. Today even that has been taken away because the new Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health is also a traditional strong advocate of the interests of only her Medical Doctor colleagues from her time as a Permanent Secretary in the office of the Head of Service of the Federation.
To compound the woes of all other health workers apart from Doctors which we represent, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity which ordinarily should arbitrate over our welfare demands which the hegemony of Doctors over-bearing leadership truncates at the Federal Ministry of Health is now being headed by yet another Medical Doctor, Dr. Chris Ngige. The obvious fallout of this dangerous but unprecedented structure against the professional destinies of all health workers apart from Doctors can be summarized in the reflected phraseology-calamitous future expectations.
For a Health Sector where Doctors hitherto reduced a supposed Federal Ministry of Health to a Ministry of Doctor to now be officially and legitimized as home to only Doctors who constitute less than 5% of the workforce at the detriment of the majority of over 95% in our humble opinion Your Excellency, appears to epitomise neglects of the feelings of the gross majority of health workers and will aggravate the volatility in the sector instead of abating it.
For sake of emphasis the Nigeria Medical Association is already reaping the expected fruits of the whirlwind of benevolent appointments. On Friday, November 13, 2015 the Hon. Minister of Health, Prof. Issac Adewole visited the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Secretariat in Abuja where he met both the Nigeria Medical Association President, Dr. Kayode Obembe and National Assocaition of Resident Doctors (NARD) President, Dr. Muhammed Askira. As expected the demand list included:
(1) Preservation of the status quo ante in the unskewed appointments in board constitution and membership of the 55 Federal Health Institutions.
(2) Imposing the Yayale Ahmed Panel report which only the NMA favours in the Health Sector. This is at a time other health workers are challenging and infact seeking quashing of this report at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN). Today we are aware the Health Minister and Labour Minister are raising legal teams to join forces against us at the NICN.
(3) Implementing the agenda of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) through the National Health Act. The Federal Ministry of Health has already set up committees and structures made up exclusively of only Doctors as usual.
(4) Imposing relativity/skipping for Doctors on the Federal Health Institutions even when other health professionals who got National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) judgments in their favour since 2010 have not been paid by some Chief Medical Director (CMDs) in the Federal Health Institutions (FHIs).
(5) Exclusive overseas training for Medical Doctors through improved residency programmes.
(6) Designing new welfare schemes for Corper Doctors.
(7) Introduction of pension and gratuity for Resident Doctors
(8) Perfecting domination of Doctors in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS)
(9) Payment of Doctor-University Lecturers with the CONMESS scale and privileges.
(10) Recognition of Doctor’s Postgraduate Fellowship over Ph.D in their careers as academics.
The Hon. Minister was reported to have assured his colleagues to be patient as he would actualize these demands.
We have continued to evaluate this situation in the last few days and it is only in tandem with commonsense that we now respectfully request Your Excellency to look into our prayers which include:
(1) An urgent need to balance the various appointments already made at the Federal Ministry of Health in the interest of enduring peace in the Health Sector.
(2) A dire need to appoint healthcare providers of diverse background within the rank and file of our members as Special Adviser on Health to the President, Senior Special Assistant on Health in addition to lawful appointments of our members who should head some of the key parastatals in the Health Sector based on existing condition precedents in the relevant statutes.
(3) An immediate approval of the adjustment of the CONHESS scale as was done with CONMESS scale since year January 2014 to pave way for implementation based on approvals in the 2016 budget. This must be in addition to other welfare demands of JOHESU members.
Your Excellency, we do know that different versions of the situation in the Health Sector pervade the land. As citizens of this country, we are fed up with a status-quo that continually consumes and diminishes our potentials because our commonwealth is always been poached while our privileges as citizens are breached as well as trampled upon.
We are of the firm opinion that as Your Excellency builds structures to preserve our national heritage, the collective destinies of all shades with tendencies of our people must be reckoned with. This cannot be said to be a reality in the Health Sector where it continues to be convenient to sacrifice the destiny of 95% of the workforce for the pecuniary interests of a few sacred cows.
It is therefore our hope Your Excellency will urgently redress the myriad of serious issues raised in this memo in the typical commendable spirit Your Excellency has been championing a turn-around in our entire nation.
Thank you very much Your Excellency.
Comrade Jay Josiah Dr. G. C. Okara
Chairman, Joint Health Sector Unions Chairman, Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA)