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Health workers advise Buhari on how to curb coronavirus, others

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To stop further importation of the dreaded coronavirus (COVID-19) into the country, health workers under the aegis of Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU)/ Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA) have urged President Muhammadu Buhari to restrict international flights coming to Nigeria to Lagos and Abuja airports and ships berthing to only Lagos seaports because surveillance is better in these cities which also have functional Isolation centres now.

National Chairman, JOHESU, Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, in an address during a courtesy visit to President Buhari on Tuesday, March 10, 2010, said one of the challenges that has arisen as a fall-out of COVID-19 is that of drug security which is a challenge they have always alerted the nation of. Josiah said the shut-down of major pharmaceutical industries in China as well as a banning of exportation of drugs and pharmaceutical excipients from India makes the threat of an imminent drug scarcity in Nigeria a huge possibility because these two countries combine to supply over 80 per cent of drug needs in Nigeria today.

The JOHESU boss therefore urged the Federal Government to facilitate substantial investments in the pharmaceutical industry especially the building of petrochemical plants to guarantee self-sufficiency in the availability of essential medicines in the health system.

JOHESU, which accounts for over 95 per cent of the workforce in the health sector of the economy is an amalgamation of five registered trade unions and AHPA including: Medical & Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN); National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM); Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI); Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP); Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Associated Institutions (NASU); and Assembly of Healthcare Professional Associations (AHPA).

The health workers, however, thanked President Buhari his prompt release of funds to tackle the unfortunate menace of COVID 19 through the release of N600 million. “It is our belief that this will take care of essentials including Personal Protection Equipment (PPE),” they said.

They also appreciated the President for assenting to the National Health Act which provides for a one per cent consolidated fund for the health sector as well as for not implementing the advice of stakeholders who clamoured for the privatisation of the health sector which would have deprived the masses of access to affordable healthcare.

JOHESU also urged Buhari to facilitate and release funds through a Presidential approval to cater for the adjustment of Consolidated Health Salary Scale (CONHESS) salary structure which has lingered since January 2, 2014; payment of withheld April and May 2018 salaries to JOHESU members in the Federal Health Institutions; and immediate implementation of consent judgments especially the implementation of the consultancy cadre for eligible health professionals in Nigeria

The health workers are also seeking the review of concession of health facilities by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) in public interest.

The ICRC had in August 2019 granted the Federal Ministry of Health the nod to concession 22 tertiary hospitals. The Commission said the selected teaching hospitals would be run on a public-private partnership (PPP), with the aim of improving access to quality healthcare services.

To this end, ICRC had issued the Ministry of Health Outline Business Case (OBC) compliance certificate for the rehabilitation and concession of the federal teaching hospitals. JOHESU said the approach must be to redress the failed leadership of doctors in Federal Health Institutions (FHIs) by adopting the pre 1985 approach of getting hospital administrators to run the FHIs to reduce corruption which even the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) has confirmed is most pronounced in the Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of the health sector and thus pave way for the prudent management of our limited resources in healthcare.

They called for redressing the deficiencies in decree 10 of 1985 now CAP 436 LFN 2004 to reposition the FHIs; and a Presidential intervention to redress the choice of a controversial chairmanship designate of the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria (PCN) as they re-position MDAs involved in drug distribution at all times and particularly in times of health emergencies. They health workers said in line with the philosophy of the Federal Government to fight corruption through the encouragement of whistle blowing to expose corruption, the 700 JOHESU members who inculcated this policy at Federal Medical Centre, Owerri have been denied payments of four months salaries, denied promotion which are their legitimate rights.

The health workers said the identified arrow-heads who led the anti-corruption initiative have been hit even harder as the outstanding salaries is between five to seven months.
They appealed to President Buhari to on compassionate grounds direct an immediate redress of these seized salaries and emoluments while restoring the rights of these workers to be promoted.

“Finally, JOHESU reiterates its willingness to extend necessary cooperation as you lead the way to embark on the very important assignment of ensuring compliance with all judgements of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), which were issued on March 28, 2019, payment of outstanding 2018 salaries to our members and actualising the adjustment of CONHESS Scale which has been pending for so many years,” they said.

The health workers said there is need to re-structure the regulatory agencies in the drug distribution channels. They said the quest for self-sufficiency in the Pharmaceutical Sector must be tied to complete reforms and proper restructuring at the key Regulatory Agencies in the value chain of drug distribution in Nigeria today which include the PCN, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) National Agency for Food Drug And Control (NAFDAC).

JOHESU urged Buhari: “These agencies need to be better funded and we must insist on the appointments of fit and proper persons in these very strategic regulatory agencies in public interest.

“As supporters of the Government anti-corruption crusade and its penchant for rule of law, we shall always form the needed invincible bilateral consortium the Federal Government needs to actualise it’s goals and objectives at all times.

“We therefore find it necessary, Your Excellency to draw your attention to the obvious crisis which has prevented the inauguration of the Governing Council of the PCN by the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).

“The crux of the matter here is that the PSN which is the major stakeholder as the umbrella platform of Registered Pharmacists in Nigeria at some point removed one of the two Chairmen-Designates of PCN on its Fellowship list and put him on the Roll of Dishonour of the Profession for purported acts inimical to professional interest.

“In view of the reality that the Chairman of PCN is the Statutory Chairman of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the PCN (an equivalent of a Federal High Court) the stakeholders in health insist appointing such in a Regulatory Agency will cause integrity problems for the PCN when erring companies and professionals pass through such tainted Disciplinary Tribunals because of their presiding officer.”

JOHESU said their concern is that the Presidency must intervene now so that the statutory function of the PCN in pharmacy practice matters to ensure the a availability of safe and efficacious drugs in registered premises is not compromised particularly because of the evolving challenges of COVID-19 and other diseases.


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