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Many Lessons from Health Workers/ JOHESU Strike by Fejiro Oliver
Date Posted: 29/Aug/2013
Generations change their style of life; they dictate how their future and that of their unborn should be. They do so not at the peril of others, but for the entire benefit of mankind. Their struggle begins from the womb and come to fruition when they decide to take their destinies in their hands. Still yet, they are sympathetic to the cause of their current generation even as they fight for a tomorrow they may never see. But nothing is more paradisic (my own word for living in paradise) than see their struggles, agitations and tussle for survival come to fruition while the breath of life still run in them.
The above aptly capture the delicate health system and their medical workers who despite their agitations remembered their Hippocratic Oath and graciously, but with a clause suspended the strike. At exactly 12.15am Wednesday, a top official of the union sent me a text that the strike has just been suspended. Before then, a government top official has hinted me that they are meeting and the minister who is currently under fire is ready to climb down from his high horse and accede to JOHESU requests. In the meeting which had the minister of health were also present; the Head of civil service of the federation and National President of TUC was an agreement reached that the strike will be suspended for four weeks, with an implementation committee headed by the Head of civil service to implement the ruling of the National Industrial court and the minister not to go on appeal.
 
The true mark of repentance is humility, which Mr. Onyebuchi Chukwu (who is likely to see me as an antagonist, but I see him as a friend in progress) may have shown by finally seeing reasons for the just action of JOHESU. I do not believe he’s unjustly insensitive, but the NMA constituency which he belongs seems to affect his reasoning. He has decided to right the wrongs of Late Ransome Kuti and we bid posterity to begin his judgment from there. Now that the strike has been called off; what would I have done if I were the NMA national president?
 
The strike once again has proved that the doctors of medicine(MD) cannot work as health practitioners without the other doctors and medical practitioners’, thus proving that all services rendered by these medical personnel are indispensible. Were I the NMA chairman, I would humbly call my partners in JOHESU and NUPTAM; apologize for any inflammatory statements that might have angered their members to pour out their venomous wrath on Nigerians, which led to increased number of death since their services were withdrawn. I will borrow a leaf from the NMA Gombe State chairman, Dr Jauro Degri statement, acknowledging their inability to take the place of the other medical officers, thus, “we want to inform the public that whatever service we cannot render as a result of the strike, we can always advise and direct them to where they can be attended to”. It doesn’t cost a dime to be modest and plead that the ultimate end for all medical workers is what Dr Jauro said, “We are all trained to save lives and these lives, we must save, because we know that one day, we must account for this work that we are doing,”. This is what the NMA should do preaching unity and collaboration among themselves.
 
Were I the NMA, I will team up with NUPTAM to form a union that will take the government on the decayed health facilities in the country, failed health issues as their ASUU counterpart are demanding for improvement in the education industry. Imagine a union such as this going on strike! You can bet on it that their industrial action will not last for more than 48 hours before the government of the day consent to their reasonable request(s). They will get the optimum support of all Nigerians, as their being indispensable will be proved beyond reasonable doubt. I will reflect on the NMA strike in Lagos State where Governor Babatunde Fashola relegated them to an inconsequential association, despite the weeks it lingered, with works going on fully in Lagos hospitals. A union such has this would have made Fashola literary creeping and begging for it to be called off. If I were NMA; I would advocate for this common union in the spirit of brotherhood and comradeship. Had I been the NMA, I will truly seek the advice of the Medical Laboratory scientist who is more grounded in their field and thus better, than a pathologist. I will see their services as indispensible, taking a big lesson from the MD in UBTH who tried to do the work of the striking Medical scientist and ended up spilling 18 PCV out of 24 PCV, a clear case of inability. 
 
How about the case of the Doctors of physiotherapy (DPT)? The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) will join the Medical Rehabilitation Therapy Board (MRTB) to ask the government to provide enough equipment to the various hospitals, to enable the few graduates they produce do their internship in any hospital in the country. Next, we will write to Nigerian Universities Commission to increase the number of universities studying this course (they are less than 15), while we do all it takes to meet the requirements to setting up such department. A new branch of medicine it is but indispensible. Nigerian former military president, Babangida can testify to it, when he went for a broken leg treatment abroad, as well as former vice president, Atiku Abubakar who have been treated by name. Do we need to mention the governor of Taraba State who needs it to come back to his memory, working alongside a neuro specialist? To the nurses, who are the de facto head of the wards, will I pledge my union support, to respect and not claim to be their boss when actually we are not, either by practice or training, except by age or grade level. We at the NMA executive will set up a committee to look into the unwritten fracas happening between the doctors of medicine and nursing graduates; then proffer a solution once and for all, knowing that the common stake we share is to make a patient get well. We will go the length of meeting the radiography board to iron out our differences while reaching a synergy that not only will they exercise their authority as the modern eyes of in-depth medical practice in their private hospitals, but also government hospitals.
 
We understand that we don’t know anything about diet, and thus should not feign to be dieticians. As the NMA, we accept that we are only a group of specialist in a particular field, who even in our personal lives seek the advice of the dieticians and follow strictly the diet they laid down for us. This dietary department, if true confession is made is a no go area, and thus we won’t and should not deceive patients that it’s within our jurisdiction to give right solution. Succinctly put; we are only an allied profession to it just as we are to others and they are to us. To undermine the Pharmacists who are called Doctor of Pharmacy abroad, if I were a NMA president is to commit career suicide, since my patients cure begin from their doorsteps. 
They manufacture the drugs which we prescribe to whoever seeks our advice. Beside, these are group of people who can work alone and in places outside the hospital/clinic settings without needing my services or educational input. I will seek to mend fence with them if there were any. Why should we in the medical sector struggle for leadership when that is actually not the problem with our hospitals. In the beginning, it was not so; thus I will let my NMA constituency know that there are no superior in this field of medicine, but equals working toward the same purpose, to achieve a common goal- improved and better health care for us with good monetary value accrued to our services. The debate for harmony is a welcome development, so will I see it, after all, we truly harmonize in the discharge of our duties to the patients. The mistake failure on the part of a medical lab scientist or radiographer renders useless all the treatment of a doctor of medicine or doctor of physiotherapy. The careless action of a nurse will see a patient to the grave and the list goes on. I will gladly follow the words of Tony Hillarman, “Everything is connected. The wing of the corn beetle affects the direction of the wind, the way the sand drifts, the way the light reflects into the eye of man beholding his reality. All is part of totality, and in this totality man finds his hozro, his way of walking in harmony, with beauty all around him”. This is the harmony that we truly need which should reflect in the leadership. We agree that anyone can head, but better if a hospital administrator is made the head while we all focus on our clinical duties, and the commissioner or minister of health being from any competent medical practitioner.
 
Oh if I were! I will not see Fejiro Oliver as a witch hunting journalist, who was paid to demystify the medical profession, but a reporter who was simply doing his job to see that the health sector is truly reformed and a better working relationship among all the practitioners. Yes, I will look at all he has said critically, analyzed it and with modesty kick off to work. I really wish were! Nothing gladdens a reporter’s heart than seeing his genuine cry heard in the interest of the nation. We at secretsreporters saw a medical strike genocide coming had the state and local government hospitals joined today, that the strike was eventually suspended. We saw our grandparents in the village raining curses on the government for denying them access to these medical workers, most especially the ladies who love to visit a hospital and love being attended to by the ladies in white. While they label our report as being too frank; we just could not be too mild with the lives of Nigerians. What they fail to understand is that should NMA go on a just strike tomorrow, we will still be here to ring the bells in support of them. Oh yes, we will!
 
We‘ve not backed out of the call to relieve the minister of health of his ministerial position, but it’s never late for him to make amend, go back to the drawing table and retrace his steps. The strike has only been suspended, not called off; hence let the agreement and consensus to these deserving requests be granted. This is no call of support for JOHESU but for the general good of the citizenry who will die next after the expiration of four weeks with the agreement not honored. Even the lands have rejected their corpse; Mr. President, do not force them on the land.
For now, JOHESU/NUPTAM and the patients in the hospitals that will now see their doctors, Nurses, Medical lab scientist, Imaging Scientist, Dieticians etc back to work treat them, can now pop champagne.
 
Fejiro Oliver, a Journalist can be reached on [email protected] and +2348026797588 (sms only please). You can now follow on twitter @fejirooliver86 and Facebook fejirooliver86

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