In most advanced countries, among medical professionals, the fear of the self-regulatory body is the beginning of wisdom. Getting into trouble with the Registration Body has grave consequences for practising physicians. But the entire system depends on records being kept. So an offence, no matter how small that might affect your practice is always on record….always accessible to those that need to know. Every member of the public, from anywhere in the world, can go the website of the UK’s General Medical Council to check on the registration status of a doctor….anyone. All you need is a name! Employers can request for more details and patients can lodge complaints right there on the website. It is for the responsibility that we take, more than the skills we possess that doctors are paid relatively good salaries around the world. Our charater failings therefore can have profound effects on our careers….rightly so.
Is it really too much then to expect a bit more from the Nigerian Medical and Dental Council? A few years ago, I went to the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN), at their former offices at 25 Ahmed Onibudo Street, Victoria Island….and the experience was one of the dark ages. Folders stacked in piles on the floor, no electronic payment platforms, months of delays to get even the simplest things done….. Subsequently, our regulatory body commissioned what I can only describe as simply the most horrendous website you have ever seen…here. (watch out for the flying objects)!
But things are changing!
MDCN has launched a new ONLINE Registration and Payment platform for various services by Doctors, Dentists and Alternative Medical Practitioners.
I have just successfully registered and renewed my registration online!
With the relatively good functionality, now is the time to drive traffic, ensure compliance, keep the website up….and maybe finally move into the 21st century.
But we can still improve on the website. I do not see the point of filling your prime space on the front page of the website of 4 irrelevant rotating pictures of guys in lab coats looking around. It is sometimes worth it while developing a website not to re-invent the wheel (and do it so poorly), but to look at what our neighbours in Ghana, Kenya or South Africa have had going for quite a few years now. We are way way behind, not the West but other African countries….sadly.
The new online registration portal is not the first new development at MDCN. Followers of the medical scene may have realised that until last year, under pressure from political and economic Godfathers our medical schools were admitting more people as medical students annually, many medical schools topping 400 students a set! Well after some lost their accreditation……that has now been reverted and none will not be admitting more than 150 per year.
Then came the introduction of compulsory continuous professional development from January 1 2012. It is still amazing that we have not had this until now.
The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) rose from its 7th Plenary session on Friday 30th September, to announce another series of changes focusing on practice, quality, safety and ethics of doctors and dentists. The completely unregulated standards of clinical practice is the biggest challenge facing our healthcare sector in the public and private sectors. There is little incentive to be a good doctor…other that one’s conscience. In the public sector, the greatest challenge is the conflict of interest between working in public service, and in parallel in the private sector. It is no secret that for many doctors (by no means all), working in a teaching hospital serves the sole purpose of a conduit to his private practice. I dare say that this is inevitable. As long as the system allows it. This is even more unconscionable with the increase in public sector salaries, and the constant strikes to insist that this is paid. Finally, this is hopefully about to end and we must make the choice every other professional must make- to work in the private or public service, We cannot, should not have your cake and eat it. It has not gone all the way…but started in the right direction.
MDCN at the 7th plenary decided to remind all doctors and dentists of what has been in the handbook / code of ethics designed and released by the MDCN. MDCN says that since no one can be in two places at the same time, it is about time that the laws on private practice are enforced for the good of the doctor and dentists, the patient; the public, and the government.
The highlights of their decisions are that:
- Only consultants with over10 years post qualification experience are legally allowed to engage in private practice, at the same time that they are full-time government employees;
- This private practice must be only consulting clinics and any intervention or investigation must be carried out within the government hospital where the doctor is employed;
- Private practice can only be engaged in the doctors free and non contracted time;
MDCN has given a period of grace of up to December 2011 for those affected to comply with the laws of the land. But the test of this will be in its implementation. Gone are the days of empty threats. Nigerians will be watching, and we at Nigeria Health Watch will be watching. December 2011 is round the corner. The doctors in LUTH, UNILAG, ABU and UNTH that run the biggest private hospitals around these cities are public knowledge. They have never hidden their practices. We will get back to you on this in January 2012.
But it can no longer be business as usual. If Nigeria is to change for the better, the change has to start from us. Kudos to MDCN for taking on its leadership mantle under Professor Roger Makanjuola. We will get used to good leadership and we will expect nothing less in the future. We must hold ourselves to the very high standards that the Nigerian public rightly expects of us. ALUTA
The full text of the COMMUNIQUE from the meeting is below. Sadly…I could not find it on their website 🙂
- Ensuring that the facilities, both physical resources and personnel, in the medical and dental schools are of high standard and that they admit the numbers appropriate to those facilities. This is to be achieved by close monitoring of the training institutions and taking firm action in respect of those institutions that fail to meet the required standards.
- Ensuring that doctors and dentists maintain the standards of professional practice through a compulsory programme of Continuing Professional Development (CPD), which was introduced in 2010. As from January 1, 2012, certification of having met the CPD requirement will be a condition for renewal of annual licences to practice.
- Prosecution of medical and dental practitioners who have engaged in malpractice or unethical behaviour through the Council’s disciplinary bodies, the Investigation Panel and the Disciplinary Tribunal.
- Information and Communication Technology to be deployed for all the Council’s functions.
- Over the past year, 11 institutions that failed to meet the required standards or which have admitted student numbers greatly in excess of what they can meaningfully teach have had their accreditations withdrawn. The accreditations of those institutions are being restored only when they have restored these standards. The disciplinary actions did result in them taking action to rectify their deficiencies and restore standards, and those institutions are the better for it. Also, all the training institutions now know that we mean business and are striving to ensure that they adhere to the standards that the people of our Nation deserve.
- The compulsory programme of Continuous Professional development has been established. Compliance with the CPD requirement is a condition for renewal of licences to practice as from January 1, 2012
- The two disciplinary bodies of Council, the Investigation Panel and the Disciplinary Tribunal, have been working vigorously to ensure that cases of erring practitioners are dealt with promptly and firmly,
while ensuring justice to those concerned. At its most recent session, the Disciplinary Tribunal suspended the licences of two doctors and struck off the name of a third doctor from the Register of Medical Practitioners.
- For the first time in 10 years, the Register of medical and dental practitioners has been published, and is available both in hard copy and electronic form. The Register can be accessed on the MDCN website.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead