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NMA knocks Bill on gunshot victims

….As FG sets up implimentation committee

By Sola Ogundipe,  Chioma Obinna & Chinyere Amalu
CONTROVERSY continues to trail the issue of the handling of gunshot victims with the Lagos State Branch of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) declaring  the Bill on gunshot victims presently before the Senate as unnecessary, just as  Federal government set up an implementation/publicity committee on the issue.

Arguing that thebill was uncalled for last week during the 2009 Physcians’ Week,  Chairman of  the Association, Dr Adedamola Dada said there was no need for the gunshot victims’ Bill since Section 20 of the National Health Bill already passed by the House of  Representatives, but awaiting  consideration of the Senate, makes it mandatory that a healthcare provider, health worker or health establishment shall not refuse a person emergency care for any reason. Section  II of the same Bill appropriately prescribes  punishment, he noted.

Dada who spoke during the event with the theme; “Save Life, Make Hospitals Safe in Emergencies” further explained cited Section 28 (A) of the Code of Medical Ethics of the Medical & Dental Practitioners’ Act, Laws of the Federal Government of Nigeria, that failure to attend promptly to a patient in emergency constitutes professional negligence.

According to him, doctors were being confronted daily with problems of caring for  patients in difficult conditions and that emergency cases were being with partially functional or non-functional machines, in addition to the challenge of epileptic power supply.

Corroborating his views, Provost College of Medicine, College of Medicine University of Lagos and past president of the Association, Prof Femi Atoyebi said although the new Bill was timely, it was focused in the wrong direction.

He said the Bill should have focused more on the totality of the health system instead of singling out doctors.

However, in a related development, Fedreal government directed that the terms of reference of the committee would be to draw up Implementation Strategy to sensitise scurity and hospital personnel and the  public on the new policy thrust.

Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimehin who set up the committee noted that  “It is also expected that publicity materials would be designed and distributed to our hospitals, Police formations and highways nationwide”.

A press statement signed by the AD Press Federal Ministry of Health, Boade Akinola, Minister of Health Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin has directed all Federal Hospitals to treat immediately all victims of gunshot and vehicle accident brought to the hospital.

The directive, contained in a letter written to all Chief Medical Directors, Medical Directors and Medical Officers in charge of all government hospitals read in part: “In line with the new government  policy, all Federal Government Teaching Hospitals, Medical Centers, Specialist Hospitals and Staff Clinics are expected to treat victims of gunshots and vehicle/motorcycle accidents immediately they are brought into your premises without insisting on the following which used to be mandatory requirements, viz: (a) Police Report (b)  Cash deposit;  and (c) Presence of next of kin”.

The Minister further directed that where the identity of a patient is in doubt, especially if suspected to be an armed robber, and therefore not a victim of armed robbery, a report should be lodged with the Police station nearest to the Hospital/Medical centre concerned.

In order to achieve this, he further directed that a closer collaboration be established between the Police and medical doctors.

“He asked the medical directors to maintain open lines of communication with Police Formations in their areas of jurisdiction and meet regularly to foster the spirit of cooperation. ”As part of the government efforts at ensuring that this momentum is sustained, the Honourable Minister of Health has also set up an Implementation/Publicity committee”, it said.


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