By Fejiro Oliver
That a department of radiology, medical laboratory sciences (which the media erroneously refer to as medical laboratory technology), optometry etc., is headed by a doctor is an aberration, a misdemeanour and oddity. What then is the use of studying such course when the practitioner cannot get to the peak of his career?
Just when I was about getting ready for my afternoon games; an SMS rushed in, which got me thinking that the medical war will go on non-stop until the citizen and the president do something about it by laying off the minister of Health, Mr. Chukwu Onyebuchi or acceding to JOHESU request. I was not thinking because it was the first SMS of the day over my last write up on the medical strike. As a matter of fact, it was not among the first 100 SMS and definitely not among the over 480 mails received at that moment, but because I concluded that I have finally known the reason for the power tussle in the volatile health sector.
The message came thus: “Doctors are the academics in the health sector, while your so called health workers-many of them-semi-educated are the non academic staff. In all jobs, only certain cadre of workers become CEO. For instance, the academics in the university, the engineers in NNPC, judges in judiciary. That is why doctors are CMD in hospitals. You claimed you are a journalist. Perhaps a secretary is the EDITOR of your newspaper! You are one of those jealous of doctors. Your article revealed that.” He ended. This is definitely what they are made to believe during their housemanship and internship. If this is so; the medical sector is dead. With supposed physicians that think like this, the medical profession is in peril. Let’s analyse.
All over the world, there are only three group of medical profession (I stand to be corrected) that are ascribed the title ‘doctor’ namely; doctor of medicine, doctor of physiotherapy and doctor of dentistry, but this piece is narrowed down to doctor of medicine. When I set out to write ‘Nigeria Medical Workers strike; let us all die’, I was not expecting the kind of controversy and buzz as it has generated home and abroad. Certainly I was threading where angels fear to tread as revealed by Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) members who have called and sent mails. Their various comment suggested that I was threading on a dangerous path and should not be the one to open the public eye to the politicking in the health. Sorry my dear family members who are part of NMA; the truth must be told.
Our dear friend called other medical graduates “semi-educated’, a pitiable summary of their reason for going on strike, so he sees it. Can a pharmacist who manufactures the drugs which they in the doctor category prescribe be a semi illiterate, and yet they ask the public to take the drugs? Can a radiographer who do all the scan work in the hospital be an illiterate and yet they the so called ‘doctors’ begin treatment, while dependant on the scan produced by the radiographer? Is the medical laboratory scientist an illiterate when he diagnosis the cause of an ailment through his series of test carried out by him that the physicians used in working? Is the nurse truly semi- literate when a patient hope of recovery depends on him/her? Bring them on; is the optometrist a semi illiterate when patients with various eye problems seek his medical solution? Who then is the semi illiterate; the man who calls himself a doctor but cannot begin treatment until a test is carried out, or the man who diagnoses and refers the patient to any of the three doctors? Is it the man who forgets a scissors or cotton wool inside a patient body, stitch it up only for the patient to die later? Let the public judge.
I don’t know the school our doctors went to but the schools in Nigeria and abroad that I have been to bears school of health sciences, faculty of health sciences or college of medicine and all the various medical departments are in these departments. It’s befuddling to say that an insignificant department that cannot operate alone be allowed to be a CMD.
A professor of medicine who called from the USA to lend his voice aptly noted that hospitals are left in the hands of health administrators not clinicians. Can someone sing to the heavens to this ‘doctors’ that they have no business heading a hospital and if they should head, that any of the medical profession who is most qualified should head.
That a department of radiology, medical laboratory scientist (which the media erroneously refer to as medical laboratory technologist), optometry etc., is headed by a doctor is an aberration, a misdemeanor and oddity. What then is the use of studying such course when the practitioner cannot get to the peak of his career? Let all medical departments be headed by a graduate of such; not a fellow who did only few months of residency in it. You don’t force leadership when a people reject it. The various departments have refused to have MBBS graduate as their heads. Must they shed blood or keep this strike going for all our loved ones to die before their call is heeded?
In the college of engineering, there exist various departments, but the civil engineers have never laid claim that they alone be allowed to head the ministry of works, neither has the building engineers say to the structural engineer that it is their prerogative to head ministry of housing. The petrochemical engineer has not told the chemical engineer or petroleum engineer that they alone be allowed to head NNPC. The land surveyor has not told the estate surveyor that they alone be made minister for land survey? Has the quantity surveyor told the land surveyor that they should be allowed to be made surveyor general of the federation? NO! They all know that they are all engineers and surveyors, but designated differently for the smooth operation of the job. Where therein lies this show of pomposity by a minute member of the medical profession that they are the owners of medicine.
The public may not know it, but now they must! The three profession bearing ‘doctors’ constitute only 30 percent of the entire clinical staff in the hospital with doctor of medicine producing a paltry 12 percent. That a group of 12 percent be allowed to Lord over 70 percent qualified and worthy medical workers is an unforgivable sin and injustice to mankind. The academics which are the brain behind the country do not have only graduates of educational degrees as Vice Chancellors, but anybody who is a lecturer no matter the field of study can be appointed. The judiciary which the doctors of medicine want to emulate is the most professional field in the world, where universities operate a department as a faculty. Yet they have never fought each other that an international law and jurisprudence judge should not be made a minister of justice. They have never asked the President to allow only law school graduates of criminal laws to be made an attorney general, neither have they argued that only civil law graduate be made a chief judge. Anyone of the law profession is allowed to aspire to be a judge without hindrances. What then is wrong with our MBBS doctors?
No medical profession is entirely independent; all of them are allied to one another; support staff to each other. Let me tell you an experience. Five years ago, my cousin who is a doctor of medicine took me to see his friend who is a doctor of physiotherapy and was about to wed in two weeks time. There in the hospital, I heard his patient, an elderly man telling him that if he can make him walk before his wedding day; he, the patient will surprise him. I don’t know how he did it, but before the end of the two weeks, the man was hale and hearty, walking very well. I bet you can never guess this, but the patient was a consultant cardiologist! Yes, a consultant cardiologist who has given hope on life brought back to ‘life’ by another field of medicine. He did make good his promise as he was a major sponsor of the wedding.
As I write, in Ahmadu Bello University in a unit (which I won’t disclose) lies a consultant pediatrician who has been sustained on physiotherapy for the past ten years, after a successful surgery, with many more in the cue daily for treatment and yet his NMA colleagues will want the world to believe that they are indispensable, when actually they contribute the lowest of medical delivery. I know of hundreds NMA members whose hope of living lies in the nurses, DPT and optometrist; yet they refuse to allow professionalism reign in the health sector.
When doctors of medicine go on strike, they want my likes to pen reports that will cause government to hear and attract public sympathy, yet when other medical unions go on same strike; their national president term it sabotage, urging her members to be on duty. They want the media to be silent about it, forgetting that NMA strike does not affect every patient as there are always skeletal works going on by consultants and house officers. But how wrong he is. In the field of medicine; you are a clinical staff, non clinical staff or administrative staff. If this is so, what manner of argument are they propounding that medicine practice is akin to a house being built, where other staff are laborers’ while they are the engineers. It doesn’t just blend.
Fejiro Oliver is always paid by agents, so they shout. When I wrote advocating for fair trial to Ibori, they shouted to high heavens that I was paid millions by Ibori hatchet men; when I wrote the APC story; APC chieftains screamed that PDP is using me as their new media man. When I wrote against my own constituency, NUJ, for engaging in unprofessional conduct; they say Fejiro was being used by disgruntled elements and when I broke the Dafinone’s secret daughter reports, his hangers-on raised the roof that the secret daughter, Elizabeth Dafinone has paid me in pounds since she resides in London. And now that I have written on the JOHESU/NUPTAM strike, NMA members allege that I have been paid and being used by Medical Lab Scientists and Nurses to heat the polity and cause the sack of Minister Onyebuchi. If truly I’m being paid for all the countless reports and stories I have written for over a decade; I should be flying in my own private jet, chartering private planes whenever I go travelling, not boarding a business class.
Reports emanating from various newspaper reports, says that patients are already dying, with many more being evacuated to private hospitals; yet the doctors are there, helpless with no solution to the cure as they are handicapped. Will a doctor of medicine go to the physiotherapy department to treat a case he has never seen all his life apart from reading about them (that is if he has ever heard about it). I write with the spirit of truth and the various media publishers in Nigeria, London, USA, Ghana, Vienna, Netherlands, etc., publish in the spirit of truth. Nigerians have personally asked that I express their gratitude to them for being a vessel of information and making open what the ordinary masses never knew. I do not just write as a journalist, but also an activist, who advocates for the right things to be done and workers given their due benefits.
Mr. Minister, Nigerians are the ones dying not your children, they are the ones suffering, not your immediate relatives. These medical workers you know as I know do not truly feel the pains as the electorate, but must they all die before you tender your resignation honorably? To you Mr. President, we know you don’t give a damn, but don’t you also care that mothers will be made widows, husbands made widowers and parents who probably have their only child in the hospital now will become childless? Dear Jonathan, don’t you care for the loss of loved ones that will occur as you dance etighi with lives of Nigerians who you swore to protect? Is the continuous stay of your Minister of Health more important than the hundreds of lives of Nigerians that are already dying? The court appeal made by the Minister is uncalled for, wicked and delay tactics, aimed at crucifying the citizenry. By the way, what were you thinking when you appointed the minister of health and minister of health (state) from the same NMA? Were you thinking the medical workers are fools who you can ride on and get away with? No, dear President! These are professionals who spent years in the university more than you; these are the men when my grandma had back pain that the Onyebuchi group referred us to, these are the men who without them, my late grand dad would have being buried as a blind man. It is these men who I rush to for test and diagnosis when I feel uneasy. Oh Jona; these are the very people who when our relations have gone to sleep, leaving the sick in the ward; they in their glowing white uniforms take care of them while the NMA members go to the call room, sit on the sofa, crossing their legs, sipping tea and watching DSTV.
They have not asked for much but harmonization in the health sector as is done all over the world. Nigerians are saying, ‘grant them their prayers that we may not die’. Or have they not elected you and should be able to tell you what to do? If you could sack the defence minister and national security adviser, despite the days of Boko Haram insurgence, who then is the minister of health that you cannot show the way out, due to his nepotism, favouritism, high handedness and incompetence.
No, I refuse to be part of a cheated generation a decayed history and a partaker of oppression. I refuse to be tagged a failure by my unborn generation, who will question my role in this moment of history, such as this. Tomorrow, it just may be my great grandchild fighting this; it might even be yours. Mr. President, this azonto dance with the medical profession is enough; this etighi dance has gone on too long. There is blood on the dance floor already and the cries of the innocent patient who may have been saved by your quick action is ascending and your name is being mentioned. When the day of reckoning comes; what would you answer for these blood?
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, a Journalist can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and +2348026797588 (sms only please). You can now follow on twitter @fejirooliver86 and Facebook fejirooliver86