Health Workers Threaten Showdown With Buhari Over Ministerial Slots

The health sector may be thrown into a fresh crisis that may paralyse activities in government hospitals nationwide as the Nigerian Union of...

The health sector may be thrown into a fresh crisis that may paralyse activities in government hospitals nationwide as the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals has indicated its readiness to oppose the appointment of medical doctors as the minister and the minister of state for health in the ministry.
President of the Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals, Dr Obinna Ogbonna, who gave the hint in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, also accused the Federal Ministry of Health of ignoring 15 court judgements delivered in favour of medical laboratory scientists’ autonomy.

President Muhammadu Buhari is expected to name his new ministers next month after his inauguration in office for a second term. This will, however, be subject to their confirmation by the National Assembly.

But Ogbonna, who faulted the old arrangement of restricting the appointment of both the minister of health and the minister of state for health to medical doctors, said it was unfair to continue to shut out other health professionals from the ministerial jobs relating to the sector.

He said, “This crisis is coming again because both ministers in the ministry (in the last cabinet) are medical doctors, so they had the biases towards taking sides with their professional constituency. Even the permanent secretary in the ministry was a medical doctor until we protested and the Federal Government removed her and replaced her with someone else.”

He accused principal officers in the health ministry, including the ministers, of disrespecting 15 court orders relating to the autonomy of laboratory scientists.

Ogbonna said the judgements were delivered in suits filed by laboratory scientists on encroachment into their professional activities by medical professionals.

The NUAHP president specifically accused medical doctors and pathologists of doing short courses to practise as medical scientists, putting the jobs of trained medical scientists at risk.

A document obtained by our correspondent on Saturday indicated that between October 23, 2013 and January 26, 2018, a total of 13 court judgements were secured in Asaba, Jos, Ile-Ife, Uyo, Abakaliki, Enugu, Lokoja, Benin, Urrua, Sagamu and Kaduna.

It was learnt that four of the judgements had been appealed while others were subsisting.

Ogbonna added, “The judgements revolve around the issue of autonomy for medical laboratory scientists. In the hospitals, we have medical laboratory scientists who get samples from patients, doing the tests and getting the results.

“There is also a group of medical practitioners called pathologists. This group is encroaching into the activities and the work of medical laboratory scientists. They are trying to render them redundant. Doctors now want to specialise also in laboratory medicine. That is not what they were trained for in the universities and medical schools. What they do now is to engage in three or four-month courses to dominate laboratory medicine.

“The medical laboratory scientists approached a court and the court ruled that only medical laboratory scientists are trained to man laboratories and roll out results. Presently, we have secured 15 judgements in that regard but none of them is being respected by the Federal Ministry of Health.

“To end the present crisis in the health sector, we are again calling on President Muhammadu Buhari not to appoint the two ministers for health from among doctors alone. We have others who are eminently qualified to be appointed as ministers from other allied professions in the sector.”

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