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Catholic doctors call for amendment of National Health Act

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Owerri – Dr Philip Njemanze, the Chairman, Association of Catholic Medical Practitioners of Nigeria, Owerri Archdiocese Chapter, has called for the amendment of the National Health Act.

Njemanze, who made the call at a news briefing in Owerri on Friday, said the act had flaws that could spell doom for Nigerians and the healthcare system if implemented.

“The National Health Act passed by the 7th National Assembly and signed by former President Goodluck Jonathan has a lot of flaws.

“Before the passage of the act, Catholic medical practitioners pointed out these serious defects in the law but the defects were not removed before the passage; and with those defects, that law cannot be implemented for now.

“The defects, capped under three groups are: ethical problems, having to do with the permission on human organ trafficking in sections 48 and 51 as well as harvesting of organs without consent.

“The second is that in the standardisation of hospitals, what was proposed was building hospitals to international standards/equipment with nothing to be done on health services.

“The third is that there is no job security for Nigerian health workers, because under that act, the minister is empowered to sack health workers engaged in strike or disrupting health services for 14 days in any government hospital and to replace them even with foreigners,” he said.

Njemanze insisted that with these flaws, the act remained a bad legislation which must be amended.

He added: “that is why we are seeking remedy to the already passed act.’’

He said that the association would want to see the National Assembly pass another version of the law to create a way for a tripod upon which Nigeria’s health system must stand.

“In most advanced countries, there is a tripod upon which every healthcare system stands.

“The first is scientific research where every healthcare system must have national institutes of health engaging researchers, scientists to turn out modern scientific knowledge in different areas.

“The other arm is science foundation for all other allied and related science specialties in healthcare and these two branches will provide knowledge-based and knowledge-driven healthcare system anchored on evidence.’’

He said the second was prophylactic medicine (preventive medicine), to be headed by a surgeon-general, who, at federal, state and local government levels, provide voices on preventive medicine.

Njemanze said the third was the treatment arm, ‘’where you have network of hospitals, is the only arm existing in Nigeria; though not functioning well due to lack of proper coordination and poor referral-based network.

“Referral network must not only take bottom up approach but should also come from the top down to and across the system and must be joined by a referral system that works.’’

He stressed the need for the provision of access to healthcare services through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), which was universal and compulsory for every Nigerian and even for visitors to the country.

“Regrettably, the current NHIS does not guarantee proper medical attention to enrollees nor does the enrollee get value for money spent in the scheme,” he said.

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