Doctors, pharmacists, other health workers disagree over University Teaching Hospital Bill 


Lara Adejoro

The bill for an act to amend the University Teaching Hospitals in the House of Representatives has continued to pit stakeholders in Nigeria’s health sector against each other. 

The build-up to its public hearing postponed till July 27, is already fraught with disputes over competence and administrative titles.

The bill, sponsored by Hon. Bamidele Salam representing Ede North/Ede South/Egbedore/Ejigbo Federal Constituency of Osun State seeks to change the nomenclature of the head of tertiary health institutions in Nigeria from Chief Medical Director, and redefine the qualification of the head of tertiary hospitals.

It also seeks to provide a definite tenure of office for the heads of tertiary hospitals; including students of Health Sciences in the training programmes of tertiary hospitals; include hospitals established post-enactment of the extant legal framework in the schedule and for other related matters; restructure the composition of the governing boards of the federal government tertiary hospitals, among others.

By implication, any health professional, including pharmacists, laboratory technicians, nurses, and others can now head teaching and tertiary hospitals—as opposed to the current hierarchy that medical doctors occupy.

“All well-meaning Nigerians who wish our health sector well should distance themselves from the proposed amendment, and the bill should be jettisoned in its entirety,” said the Secretary-General of the Association of Provosts of Colleges of Medicine, Prof Lawrence Omo-Agboja.

“Have you seen where nurses and pharmacists are consulting? Let’s even see if pharmacists will enter where another pharmacist is consulting. Will you go to a hospital where a pharmacist or a laboratory scientist is consulting? Omo-Agboja said.

According to him, such an arrangement is like people walking on their heads, and the proposed amendment is founded on the wrong premise and context.

“Pharmacists are made to develop vaccines, why can’t they develop vaccines? 

“Rather than develop the pharmaceutical industry, they want to be doctors by default,” he added.

He warned that if Nigeria continues to do what they like, it can destroy the health sector.

Similarly, the president of the Nigerian Medical Association, Uche Ojinmah said the association rejects the bill in its entirety.

“But we may not go into the elaborate discussion until we finish presenting our position at the public hearing. It was meant to be July 6 but we postponed it to July 27,” he said.

On the other side are the pharmaceutical professionals and others rooting for the bill, and pushing their agenda, too.

In a press statement on the weekend, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria said there was no reason why the pharmacists should not be accorded their rightful treatment.

According to the association, the spirit of the amendment bill to the University Teaching Act was grounded in the belief that pharmacists, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, and other health professionals are more versatile in their areas of patient care.

“You do not bring in your wealth of experience as a Specialist Physician with a stethoscope to run the hospital system. It is the same with other Specialist Health professionals whether Pharmacists, Laboratory Scientists, or the other experts in the team,” said PSN President, Prof. Cyril Usifoh.

“The incumbent DG of the WHO is a Scientist with a bias in Microbiology. This 1986 graduate of an Ethiopian University has no background in care provisioning, but he continues to succeed in his job at WHO because of his managerial expertise.

“The gregarious socialisation of the respective components of the health sector which should be a confederacy of brotherhood has been annihilated by the likes of MDCAN and its acolytes,” he said. 

The Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria also said the bill is in tandem with global best practices with special references to the United Kingdom, United States of America, and other countries where medical training has been successfully implemented through collaborative efforts of all practitioners.

“It is bewildered how a supposed elite consultants group will compare a section of professionals in mainstream civil service with a whole arm of government (judiciary)? The judiciary is never in the same category as the health sector. Anyone trying to compare the two is simply daft or is just being mischievous,” the association said.

“Headship of hospitals is purely administrative the world over. Competent hands who are sometimes no-health professionals are appointed as chief executive officers,” it said.

The AMLSN said some of the trained physicians who oppose the change in Nigeria will work harmoniously under the CEO when they migrate to the UK.

Speaking with our correspondent on Sunday, the sponsor of the bill, Balam, said the public hearing of the bill scheduled for July 5 has been postponed to July 27.

“When the date was fixed, we didn’t know that we were going to be on recess. So, it has been rescheduled to July 27 when we resume,” he said.

Balam said he would not understand why the controversy is raging over the bill.

“As far as I am concerned, an institution like the health industry has to be looked at holistically. It’s not about one professional cadre. It’s about the whole system and the question is: Is the present system working? Are our tertiary institutions and other health institutions working the way they should? The answer is no. 

“Anyone who wants to answer that question in a very sincere manner will know that the management model we use in our health institutions is faulty and it has not always been like that.

“Every bill is a proposal, at the public hearing, they can come up with their argument and we will hear them. There is no need for any controversy, we can’t allow our health institutions to be ruined through sentiments,” he said.

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