…Demands equity in representation
By Chioma Obinna
The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, on Tuesday called for urgent reconstitution of the Health Sector Reforms Committee by inculcating more health professionals of diverse backgrounds, particularly, the representatives of Trade Unions in the Health Sector for equitable representation.
The Pharmacists also argued that the Health Sector Reforms Committee led by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo must be all-encompassing to ensure a reform process that would bring about equity to health workers who are the human resource to reckon with in the reform bid.
In a press statement tagged: “Health Sector Reforms: The beat goes on” the President of the PSN, Prof. Cyril Usifoh pointed out that out of the 28 members, about 23 appear to be physicians while only 1 Pharmacist, a Nurse and a Laboratory Scientist and expressed worry that the report that may be produced by the committee may not be acceptable to all health workers.
“The configuration of the leadership of the health sector has been systematically mutilated over the last 37 years by physicians who dot all the nooks and crannies of our health endeavours. Global best practice does not place a premium on Physician-CEO based concepts in Healthcare in most modern parts of the world.
“It is unthinkable that a strategic arm of the Health industry like JOHESU, which is the umbrella template of over 90 per cent of Health workers, is ignored in this health reform. This structural defect will boomerang largely without sounding like a prophet of doom.
“We must return to the golden era which is also commonplace now that places seasoned Administrators and Managers of cognate experience in charge of hospitals and other strategic arms in the Health Sector as this gives Health professionals, including Physicians a leeway to attend to their areas of core competences in their chosen profession,” he stated.
Usifoh who argued that the reform process must centre on the need to disrupt a most inequitable, fruitless and obviously destructive status quo, expressed worry that the proposed Committee may just go the way of previous Health Sector Reform projects as the philosophy and execution plan was one and same.
“Under the Obasanjo administration, late Prof. Olu Akinkugbe, an emeritus Professor of Medicine led a Health Reform team which had a similar composition of physicians dominating overwhelmingly, but the final report was dead on arrival because the positions like what the Osinbajo Committee will most likely bring on the table will be favourable to only physicians and that will make it unacceptable to the preponderance of health professionals and workers who make up over 90 per cent of the membership of the sector.
“Typical of the processes involved in the sharing of benefits packages, privileges and resources in the Health Sector, the Reform Committee with over 85 per cent presence of physicians already negates the rights and liberties of the majority of health workers in Nigeria.
“A Committee of this nature has slots for the Director-General, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council, a lawyer, but not for an agency like NAFDAC which regulates all the drugs, medical devices, vaccines, medical equipment, chemicals, etc which are the essential tools and commodities which drive any credible Health System.”
Usifoh further observed that at least four of the major trade unions including the Medical and health workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, NUAHP, NASU and SSA have no representation on the Committee.
“MHWUN alone is reputed to have about 60 per cent of the entire health workforce in its fold.
“His Excellency, Prof. Osinbajo, SAN is a seasoned lawyer who should know much about fairness and justice to all concerned.”
He further queried: “What would be the significance of the reform process if it does not bequeath a legacy of equity to health workers?
He added that the Vice-President must note that the major area that needs to be critically evaluated in the Health Sector remains the structure of its leadership. “Since the obnoxious Decree 10 of 1985 was enacted and Physicians were placed in charge of the sector at all levels from the Federal, State and LGA as well as the Health Institutions under their jurisdiction.”
“We have analysed the need to have the likes of Mr. Alex Okoh, the Director-General of Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) on this Committee. It is reasonable to suspect that the government is already walking the path of privatisation and selling of government property.
“The Director-General of BPE is the anchor of the sales of public enterprises so these fears when juxtaposed against the propensity of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to drive privatisation based on his antecedents when he was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State when Lagos State Government privatised public sector Pharmacies in Lagos State looks very real,” the statement stated.