Dr. Datonye Dennis Alasia, former chairman, Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA), Rivers State Branch, 2016-2018, currently the Editor, Nigeria Medical Journal; the scientific publication of the association, and member of the association’s National Officers’ Committee, spoke with Chukwudi Ejimofor, on some of the problems bedeviling the healthcare system in the country.
You were the Rivers state branch Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association of Nigeria, 2016-2018. Do you think the association has made any appreciable impact on the society since you left.
The association has made progress from 2018 to 2022. We have had two successive chairmen. We have a strategic plan and direction which everybody has to build on, Yes individuals may have their personal perspectives of what they want to bring in. But once there is a strategic plan at the organizational level, it should have to be a guide to progress and direction. Leadership is a continuum and each successive administration will put on a block and people coming to add to that block. Am happy to say that a lot has been achieved after I left office, and that is the desire of any good leader. You don’t desire the system to go down after you have completed your tenure..
The incessant quackery in the medical profession has become a phenomena in Nigeria’s healthcare system. As National officer of NMA, what is the association’s take on curbing this menace?
The NMA has established a clinical governance process which is also part of the national strategic plan which has gone down to the states. The essence of that is to strengthen the governance of clinical practice, and fighting quackery is one of that; part of it will be sensitization and information. That is why we need the media to help us disseminate the information care seeking behavior, for people to go to the right places. And then the other part in which the NMA has been a strong championship of is the National Health Act, which was passsed in 2014, and also a promoter of the universal health coverage, the national health insurance Act was amended and signed into law.
The NMA is promoting this once the citizens are part of this, it will promote their health seeking behavior, so that they don’t have to go Quacks because they don’t have resources to the right places. The final point is to use the institution of state seek for medical services. There is a committee that is set out to fight quackery, and NMA is in all these. It is a three point approach, one is Information, tackling the enablers in a systematic way that empower the citizens to make the right choices for their health seeking behavior and dealing with those who are doing things.
One of the inherent problems in Nigeria’s healthcare system has been funding; what has NMA done to ensure that there is progression in funding the health sector?
The budget for healthcare in Nigeria is not in tandem with the World Health Organization (WHO) standard on health. The NMA recently submitted a memorandum to the federal government following the health reform committee set up by the federal government, and chaired by the Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. One of the key points in the memorandum is health financing.
What is NMA doing to increase the number of healthcare workers in our hospitals?
Many healthcare workers are leaving the country to seek greener pasture abroad yet we don’t have enough. We need to retain what we produce. We need to do that so that the health system will not collapse. Raising funding and health finance care is very important.
The health system in Nigeria is at risk, because if you are losing trainers and trainees there is going to be a problem. The brain drain is something that should be considered as a national security threat.
Is the NMA Rivers state branch comfortable with the state of primary and secondary healthcare in the state?
No, we are not comfortable You can’t run a general hospital with one doctor or three nurses.