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Meet Enabulele, president-elect of World Medical Association

By Chukwuma Muanya
07 November 2021   |   3:06 am
A chief consultant family physician, past President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and current President of Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele

President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and current President of Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele, is the President-elect of the World Medical Association (WMA).

A chief consultant family physician, past President of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and current President of Commonwealth Medical Association (CMA), Dr. Osahon Enabulele, is the President-elect of the World Medical Association (WMA).

His emergence followed an almost one week period of voting by participating National Medical Associations all over the world.

Enabulele’s victory is a testimony to his global acceptability and recognition of his many years of hard work within the WMA, his profound intellect, sagacity and excellent performance in all responsibilities assigned to him, and his undeniable contributions to the global body.

He defeated Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Nizami, a professor of Orthopaedic Surgery and the President of the Pakistan Medical Association.

With this feat, Enabulele has once again attained another milestone by being the first Nigerian and West African physician to be elected President of the World Medical Association since the birth of the global body in 1947.

It would be recalled that in 2019, Enabulele became the first Nigerian physician to be elected as President of the CMA since the CMA was founded in November 1962.

In the same year 2019, Enabulele also became the first Nigerian physician to become a statutory Council Member of the World Medical Association, as well as the first Nigerian physician to preside over one of the only three standing committees (Socio-Medical Affairs Committee) of the World Medical Association, following his election as Chair of SMAC in Chile in 2019. The mandate was renewed early this year.

He gave his acceptance speech at the London 2021 General Assembly of the World Medical Association held on October 15.

He will be superintending over the World Medical Association during the 2022 – 2023 Executive year.

Felicitating with Enabulele, President Muhammadu Buhari in a congratulatory message by his spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, noted that at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the world, a Nigerian got elected to lead a very important body.

According to him, members of the WMA worldwide deserve commendation for their life-saving roles and personal sacrifices to save humanity.

He expressed the hope Enabulele would bring his wealth of experience in the medical field and impressive leadership skills to his new position.

The president wished him every success in the new assignment, assuring him of the Federal Government’s unflinching support.

Also, Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Olisa Ifeajika, commended Enabulele for the rare feat of becoming first Nigerian and first West African to be elected President of WMA.

He recalled how Enabulele as President of NMA (2012 to 2014) collaborated with the Federal Government to undertake reforms in the health sector which culminated in the enactment of the National Health Act in 2014.

He expressed optimism that the president-elect of WMA would bring his wealth of experience to bear on the new task.

Renowned as an apostle of Universal Health Coverage (UHC), the family physician, in his recent work published in World Medical Health Policy and titled “Achieving Universal Health Coverage in Nigeria: Moving Beyond Annual Celebrations to Concrete Address of the Challenges” concluded: “More than 13 years after the launch of the formal sector social health insurance scheme on June 6, 2005, Nigeria still parades an unsatisfactory level of health coverage of her citizens with a rising double burden of disease and poor health outcomes.

“For Nigeria to achieve UHC, all identified constraints and challenges on the road to its actualization must be addressed. In this regard, the utmost priorities are improved health financing, improved political commitment to UHC with a significant reduction in outward medical tourism, innovative and transparent stewardship roles for and management of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), empowerment of the citizens, and enthronement of quality.”

Also, last August, he criticised the government for not motivating Nigerian doctors to stay at home and practice.

Enabulele said: “To the issue of brain drain, it is not enough to say that you are investing in training. Beyond training, how are you investing in the retention mechanism? Because the issue of the health workforce is about production, retention and of course, motivation. So, the issue of production is there, we are not producing enough.

“So, how are we investing in the health production capacity in terms of the institutional framework for producing health personnel? Today in the health sector, we need over 250,000 medical doctors to meet the ratio of one doctor to 600 population prescribed by the world body.

“Nigeria today is revolving around one doctor to 4,000 population. That cannot impact useful health outcomes. That cannot drive useful health outcomes. So, how are we producing? Even those that are produced, how are we training and retraining them? How are we retaining them?

“Even in the midst of COVID, you saw the UK government emplacing very attractive programmes for healthcare workers all over the world in the phase of Brexit. Who will not get attracted to that?

“For those of us who are even straining ourselves to remain in our country, I think we should be appreciated. But that is not even being done because rather than patronizing Nigerian health professionals, our government is patronising those abroad.

“It further tells me that I am not even valued in my own country. So perhaps the best place to be valued is to go abroad where I will have the opportunity to treat my President because that also gives you some level of professional esteem.”

Meanwhile, Enabulele had told The Guardian that politicians and others must respect doctors and stop foreign medical trips.

On what is responsible for the brain drain, he said: “Nigeria will continue to experience brain drain of medical personnel, as long as federal, state and local governments have poor priority for the health of their citizens and for medical professionals, most of who compete favourably with their counterparts in the developed world.

“One would have thought that recent governments in Nigeria would learn from the experiences of the past, particularly the massive brain drain of the 1980s.

“But it seems little or nothing has been learnt, hence the increasing mass exodus of medical professionals to other countries that have more hospitable work environments, better working conditions and better respect and recognition of their worth.

“There are protean and multi-dimensional push and pull factors responsible for the exodus. Of prime importance in my view is the disconcerting disregard and disdain for Nigerian medical professionals by many of the country’s top political and public officeholders.

“The preference by President Muhammadu Buhari and other top political and public office holders easily demonstrates this.

“So, since medical professionals are not well treated in their own country, they seem to have decided to move to countries where these same political and public office holders will value their professional worth and accord them deserved respect.

“Tied to this are the issues of appropriate remunerative benefits, working conditions and work environment, which still remain pitiably poor and non-competitive, compared to the much more alluring and competitive remunerative benefits and working conditions offered in the destination countries.

“Along with this is the increasing unemployment and underemployment of medical professionals, due to the increased contraction of job spaces and defective recruitment policies in many public and private health institutions.

“There are also the issues of poor political commitment to the development of Nigeria’s health sector and the health of the citizens; rising state of insecurity, kidnapping and other violent crimes, as well as rising inflation and poverty, largely traceable to sustained poor governance and the perennially poor socio-economic and political engineering of the country by people who seem to have a very narrow understanding of the place of medical professionals and indeed the health sector in the socio-economic development of the country.

“There is also the factor of Nigeria’s poorly developed private health sector and what younger medical personnel perceive as the increasing unattractiveness of postgraduate training programmes, particularly what they describe as prohibitive examination fees and failure rate at the exams, compared to postgraduate training experiences in most developed countries.”

And to remedy all these abnormalities, Enabulele underscored, first and foremost, the need for “our political and public officers, including Mr. President, to respect the professional worth of medical personnel in Nigeria.

“They need to patronise their expertise and accord them deserved respect. There is also the need for better and strategic human resource development planning, with competitive wages and improved working conditions offered to medical personnel.

“In this regard, state governments yet to implement the corrected Consolidated Medical Salary Scale (CONMESS) circular for medical personnel are advised to do so immediately, if they are to retain their medical personnel. There is also the need to expand job vacancies and opportunities for all cadres of medical personnel.

“The need for improved political commitment and budgeting for health cannot be overemphasised. So also are the need for improved socio-economic and political governance and the committed implementation of the National Health Act, including the strict implementation of one of its fundamental provisions restricting government sponsorship of foreign medical treatment for political and public officeholders.

“There is also the need for improved security and economic management with control of inflation and reduction of poverty. Certainly, the need for a holistic review of Nigeria’s undergraduate and postgraduate medical training institutions and structures cannot be overemphasised.”