The Deputy President of Nigerian Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP) in the Southern zone of Nigeria, Comrade Charles Nwoye has called on President Bola Tinubu to intervene over what he described as huge marginalization of his members in federal appointments in the health sector.
Addressing newsmen yesterday in Nnewi, Anambra State, Comrade Nwoye said his union which comprised seventeen different health professionals including pharmacists, physiotherapists, radiographers, laboratory scientists, optometrics, health information managers and dieticians had suffered neglect in the hands of previous governements in terms of appointments in the health sector and salary structure.
He said governement had always given more attention to the welfare and appointment of members of the medical and dental practitioners to ministerial position, teaching hospitals and federal medical centers without considering NUAHP members as critical stakeholders in the health sector.
He said, “Very soon, Mr President will begin to constitute boards of different health institutions like teaching hospitals and federal medical centers. We don’t need to remind him to do the needful. Each health board must include our members. This is coming in time. We do not need to struggle before we are given our rightful position.
“We have our members eminently qualified for any appointment in the health sector and Mr President should rest assured of quality services in whichever position we are appointed in the health sector to handle. We have our members that have the capacity to head a lot of different medical teams but they are not being considered.
“It’s important for governement to know that its appointment in the health sector must be drawn from medical and dental practitioners and those of our members.
” In a sector where you have up to seventeen different unions of health professionals, and you choose only members of the medical and dental practitioners, it’s an anathema, it’s against the law of equity, it’s condemnable and must be seen as the height of insensitivity as well as discrimination against other health professionals.
“People who should make meaningful contributions from other health areas are not given the opportunity to do so.
“You talk about combating epidemics in Nigeria knowing fully well you have about five to six different health professionals that will be part of the team. You’re constituting a team of 10-man and you select five from one particular profession. It doesn’t show equity, it doesn’t agree with best global practices. This is part of the reasons the health sector is not growing in Nigeria. Governement should look inwards to change the narrative.”
Nwoye also said that President Tinubu should without further delay direct immediate implementation of the adjusted Consolidated Health Salary Structure (CONHSS) of his members.
He said it was more than eight years when the salary structure was amended without implementation.
“While the people are working together in the same health sector, they have singled out one profession, medical and dental practitioners, to give a separate salary structure. They have had their salary reviewed up to three times upwards. But we are still struggling with what we have since 2014.
“In the face of the current economic situation, there is need that our adjusted salary will come as soon as possible, ” he appealed.
He called on the President to increase budgetary allocation to the health sector in 2024 budget to ensure that it gets to fifteen percent benchmark which he said had never been met.
He recalled how members of his union combated the Covid-19 pandemic and other diseases including monkey pox, Ebola fever and lassar fever. He said that the possibility of another pandemic coming out soon would not be ruled out as he cited anthrax epidemic already spreading. He said the professionals in his union had been at the center of the fight against those diseases without a commensurate reward by giving attention to their demands over the years.
He said some of his professional colleagues in the union sought greener pastures across the shores of Nigeria for not receiving adequate attention from the government.
“The greatest of the problems we are facing in the health sector is brain drain. Most of the time, when we talk about brain drain in the health sector, a lot of people think it’s only about medical and dental practitioners and nurses that are having brain drain.
“That’s where their attention go at all times. That’s a huge mistake by the people. We’re having a large number of our health professionals, specialists in different areas leaving the country to the extent that if we don’t pay attention to the ongoing brain drain, before you know it, Nigeria might have a problem associated with health specialists, professionals to handle a lot of health issues.
“For instance, medical lab scientists played a great role during the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria. And I will tell you authoritatively with facts that between August 2022 and December 2022, we lost 30 percent of those health professionals to brain drain working at various hospitals in Nigeria.
“Between January and June, this year alone, we further lost another 35 percent of lab scientists; 40 percent of radiographers; 30 percent of pharmacists and 25 percent of optometrists. We lost in great numbers these health professionals and where is it taking us to?
“We are losing these professionals but governement is not doing anything fast to recruit more. We will keep on losing more. That puts us at a greater risk. Patients at the end of the day are at the receiving end.
“The cause of the brain drain is non competitive valuing. When these health professionals are valued higher in some other countries, the natural thing is to travel to the countries with higher offers for their professional services.
“Others are unstable governement policies and non sticking to agreements on the part of governement with various unions in the health sector, ” he noted.
Nwoye insisted that only when the issues raised are religiously tackled and well addressed that there would be proper functioning of the health delivery and stability in the health sector in Nigeria.