The professional rivalry in the Nigerian health sector is threatening to boil over as other unions in the sector have accused the ministry of showing blatant favouritism to medical doctors, and have passed a vote of no confidence on the minister, Isaac Adewole.
In a press statement on Monday, the Joint Health Sector Union and Assembly of Health Care Professionals, JOHESU/AHPA, demanded a restructuring of the ministry to accommodate allied health professionals in the political leadership of the sector.
The association comprises all health workers in the hospital aside medical doctors. They include pharmacists, laboratory technologists and nurses.
They accused Mr. Adewole, who is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who is also a medical doctor, of unwillingness to address the grievances of other professionals in the Nigerian health system.
The unions asked the federal government to restructure appointments at the ministry to balance the interests of allied professionals.
According to JOHESU/AHPA, the plight of their members had been further worsened by the appointment of Amina Shamaki, who is also a medical doctor, as the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Health.
They said this means that the Minister, the Minister of State, Osagie Ehanire; and the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health, as well as the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Ngige who is meant to be a mediator on workers plights; are all medical doctors and have been biased to members of their profession.
Olusegun Sotiloye, Chairman, University College Hospital, UCH, JOHESU chapter, who is also the Deputy President South, Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals, told PREMIUM TIMES that the union was forced to pass a vote of no confidence on the leadership of Mr. Adewole because he had shown himself to be the minister of Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, and not that of the entire health sector.
“As far as he (the minister) is concerned, it is only the medical practitioners that are in the Ministry of Health, so that is why we are passing a vote of no confidence on him,” he said.
“The last time we had a good Minister of Health was in the time of Eyitayo Lambo. Since Lambo, all the other ones are jokers. What is happening now in the health sector was what happened during the tenures of Chukwu Onyebuchi and Olikoye Ransome-Kuti.”
Mr. Lambo, who was Minister of Health under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, is a professor of Economics.
Decrying the alleged discrimination by the ministers, he said Mr. Adewole has refused to implement subsisting court judgements because they did not favour the interest of medical doctors.
“We want Adewole to see Ministry of Health as a ministry that has so many professionals practicing and he should make it a level playing ground for all practitioners, treat every professional as a partner in the health care delivery system in the country.
“Eyitayo called a Health Summit and everybody came to the roundtable. He heard everybody and proffered solution and was implementing it, that is why there was no strike in the health sector during his tenure. Apart from having listening ears, he was fair to everybody. But subsequent ones have been doing the opposite”, Mr. Sotiloye alleged.
“That is why we are advocating that if one of the minister is from NMA, the other should be from the allied health professionals so there will be balance. That is why we are saying the Ministry of Health should be overhauled, it needs restructuring the way we are clamouring for restructuring in the country.”
There is a long-standing bitter rivalry among doctors and other health workers in the Nigerian secondary and tertiary hospitals, which has often degenerated to verbal and physical assaults.