Health workers under the aegis of the West African Health Sector Unions Network (WAHSUN) have vowed to resist the appointment of a Surgeon General (SG) in Nigeria, unless all the grey areas regarding the appointment are sorted out, and other health professionals other than medical doctors are considered for the appointment.
Residents doctors recently demanded the appointment of a SG as one of the conditions for the suspension of their strike; the government is currently considering the appointment.
Rising from a two-day workshop held in conjunction with the Public Services International and the Ministry of Health in Abuja yesterday, the first National Vice-President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Magaret Akinsola, lamented that medical doctors had monopolised the headships of other areas in the health sector.
She noted that the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) was already holding series of meetings with the government to ensure that the appointment does not happen.
“In some tertiary health institutions, we have the Chief Medical Director (CMD) as a medical doctor, Chief of Medical Advisory Council as a medical doctor, even heads of laboratories, Nursing departments are doctors. Deputies too, are all doctors. Now, this matter of Surgeon General has come up, we know where they are heading and we would resist such,” she said.
Describing such tendencies as medical chauvinism on the part of medical and dental practitioners, Akinsola added that the seemingly ‘natural’ tendency of medical practitioners to head every aspect, division and department within the sector, including those which have qualified professionals to handle such responsibilities, lowers morale and engenders avoidable industrial conflict.
“Healthcare delivery is made up of teamwork, it is not medical doctors alone, it involves other professionals. We should allow people from the team to even head hospitals”, Akinsola added.
The National Auditor of NANNM, Haruna Mandabs, said the concept of the SG was a new thing in Nigeria, but that explanations had been made to the government on the need to have one just like the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK).
“The picture given to the public is that this SG would decide whether a person is fit to take treatment in Nigeria or can travel abroad where the services needed are not available. Can a SG restrict a governor who wants to go to Egypt for treatment? Is it practicable in Nigeria?” he queried.
Mandabs also noted that there was need for a legislation on such appointment as it must be included in the constitution of the country, adding that there has to be clarity as to the functions of the SG, especially as regards the functions of the Minister of Health.
“The concept presented in Nigeria is different from other climes. You are carrying a concept that is operational somewhere, you want to apply it, but you do not want the structure of how it is operated there. Presently, the SG in the US is a nurse, and his Deputy is a Pharmacist. The position is given to someone who has excelled professionally. Is the position also open to non-medical doctors as obtainable in other countries?” Mandabs added.
He added that when all the grey areas have been sorted, the health workers would then know whether to accept it or to resist it.