The Nigerian government on Wednesday commenced moves for a major review of the health sector including whether or not doctors in public hospitals should engage in private practice.
Several Nigerians have alleged that doctors in public hospitals refer their patients to their own private clinics for treatment in order to make more money.
The Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, while briefing journalists in Abuja after the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday, said the Council has set up a committee to review the laws guiding medical practice and how it conflicts with the Nigerian code of conduct for public officials.
Mr. Adewole stated that Nigerian law, through the code of conduct for public officials, does not allow a public officer to engage in any business other than farming.
He said the committee would make appropriate recommendations to government on the issue which he said is of considerable interest to Nigerians.
According to the 2008 Code of Medical Ethics in Nigeria, a registered practitioner in full time employment in the public service shall not engage in extramural private practice during official duty time under any circumstances.
However, some doctors have been noted to be engaging in private practices during official work time while leaving their service posts under the care of junior resident doctors or house officers.
Mr. Adewole added that the council also considered an important memo on industrial relations particularly in the public sector that he said dealt extensively with several issues.
He said there was an urgent need for a comprehensive job evaluation of the health sector.
“So government has decided to set up a committee that would evaluate what exactly do we do as individuals, how much should we be paid in a way that we can really pay appropriately across board through the entire country.”
Mr. Adewole also said the Council also looked at the issue of residency training programme and decided that the training should last for a fixed time of seven years after training so that the individuals should exit the programme for other people to get in.
“In addition to that, we will also look at the Yayale Ahmed Report which tried to look into the relationship between professional groups in the health sector. The office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, has been mandated to forward a white paper on the Yayale Ahmed Report to FEC so that once and for all, government can restore harmony to the health sector,” he added.
There has been a long term rivalry in the Nigerian health sector between doctors and other health workers especially over salaries and positions.