Thought Leadership

The re-awakening of the Nigerian Medical Association

4 Mins read
Until recently the Nigerian Medical Association (needs a better website!) has been little more than a labour union, protecting the narrow interests of its members. It’s voice was rarely heard in the public space on issues of critical national importance. Rarely was it seen as a champion for the interests of the patients who doctors swear at graduation to serve and protect for the rest of our lives. Thankfully this is changing…! The current leadership of the NMA has just concluded its first Health Summit. We asked Dr Joseph Ana, Former Commissioner of Health of Cross River State during Mr Donald Dukes’s Government, to give us an account of how he saw it. 

However, we hasten to add that while this is a great start, it is only a start. There is still a long way to go for the profession to restore faith in the Nigerian population in its intent, commitment and ability to put the patient first. 

This is his account – enjoy! 

Dear All,

The first Health Summit hosted by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) ended with a terrific grand Banquet on Saturday 26th January, 2013 in Asaba, Events centre, Delta State, Nigeria. The Delta State Government of Governor Emmanuel Eweta Uduaghan, CON is justifiably proud to have hosted what has been appropriately called ‘the reborn of the NMA’.

NMA is born again because before the event, it was the talk of beer parlours and hairdressers that its members had lost most of its priviledged status amongst the population because of the attitude and behaviour of many of its members. Most Nigerian doctors remain the epitome of professionalism,  ethics and good medical practice, but the minority ‘renegades’ in the profession was getting bigger and bigger at an alarming rate. Some doctors, members of the noble profession, had found themselves mired in the whole system failure environment of the country. From incessant strike actions to conflicts of interest in working full time in at least two places at the detriment of quality and safe health care they are able to provide.

From left:  Dr Chris Ngige; Governor Uduaghan, Dr Kitchner, & Dr Joseph Ana

In the short time of about 9-months, Dr Osahon Enabulele, President of NMA and his team organised a superb and historic transformation event. I don’t think many observers gave it any chance of achieving anything, considering the prolonged slumber that the association pushed itself into. The great success of the event was therefore even sweeter and motivating. The theme ‘Repositioning the Medical Profession and Nigeria’s Health System for National Development’ said it all.  At the final count there were over 1,000 participants over the seven days and resolutions galore. The lectures were delivered by a select knowledgeable faculty on an ever excited audience. Some of the resolutions include:

  • Strikes cannot be outlawed by the NMA in a democratic environment, BUT must be as a last resort, and must receive the expressed approval of the NMA (national). Whenever such strike action does happen, doctors must ensure that emergency cases must be kept open and functional (Accident & Emergency units; labour ward; operating theatres, intensive care units and special care baby units).
  • Full time government doctors must not run full time private hospitals. Full time government consultants or doctors of ten years post qualification can run only CONSULTING clinics and must perform any surgery in their hospital of employment or in a fully registered private hospital (not owned by them). No person can be at more than one place at the same time and patients welfare must continue to be our first consideration as doctors.
  • The Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria CPD programme must continue and every doctor must continue to participate. The Summit awarded 10 CPD points to participants
  • Clinical Governance, Research, Professionalism, Ethics and Law should be added to the Medical School curriculum.
  • Doctors and Dentists should be encouraged to obtain management training.
  • Chief Medical Directors (CMD), Chairman Medical Advisopry Committee (CMAC) and Medical Directors should lead the multidisciplinary health team in their institutions.

One highlight of the summit was the public declaration by the Presidents of Nurses / midwifery union; Pharmacists Association of Nigeria; and Health workers Union, that they all recognise the doctor as the head of the health team. But called on doctors to carry-them-along in the running of health institutions and when the NMA goes fighting for doctors welfare. A good leader fights for the good of all team members.

The Federal Minister of Health announced that the re-started ‘Overseas training’ for Nigerian doctors already has about 60 doctors abroad. And it is now not just an ‘observation’ attachment, but has been scaled up to hands-on skills acquisition for the beneficiaries so that they come back to Nigeria ready to impart the new skills and treat patients.

– for other resolutions, see the communique when it is released.

The Chief Host of the health summit, Governor Uduaghan, pledged more support for the NMA so that the profession and doctors regain their proud place of respect and responsibility among the professions in Nigeria. Senator Chris Ngige, member Senate Health Committee, was present on the last day and made a similar pledge to loud ovation.

As the summit rose, all eyes and ears are now on the Public Hearing on the Health Bill which is due early in the month of February 2013.

The journey has started, the troops are out of the trenches, the advance is on. It is all about delivering on these resolutions. We live to hold every member of the NMA to deliver on these objectives.

As always…Nigerians are watching!

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

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