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'Still On The Ongoing Impunity At The Federal Ministry Of Health'

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I was in a clinic at Rumuagholu, Port Harcourt, one weekend last year when a lady in second stage of labour worked in. Why must she wait till that stage to come and register for her antenatal? I asked myself.

“Madam where did you attend your antenatal care”, I asked her.

“Nowhere”.
“Where is your husband?” I continued but her responses were not only leading to more revelations but showed the tell-tale signs of what might be considered in human. The summary is that she told me that she had no husband and the boy that put her in a family way was nowhere to be found.

I enquired what she wanted us to do for her because since I started my clinical practice, I had never seen a pregnant woman in labour who came to the hospital with no friends/relatives etc and who does not have any traceable residential address. Her next request sent chills down my spine till this day.

“I want to sell my baby”, she retorted. It was as if I didn't understand what she said. So I asked her the same question again and she repeated what she had said earlier without batting an eyelid.

I was intent on finding which baby she wanted to sell, the one in her womb or another I knew not. She told me it was the one in her womb. At that point I was confused. If I turned down the woman's request, she would definitely fall into the wrong hands and from my own clinical assessment she would deliver her baby in the next two hours. I admitted her preparatory to the delivery.

I immediately contacted Dr Onyekwere, the director of Public Health, Rivers State, on phone. As a senior colleague he advised me not to allow the lady 'escape' that he would link me to the director of Social service, whose directorate has a subunit of Child welfare. Just a couple of minutes Mr Jamabo, the director of social services, Rivers State Ministry of Women Development (RSMWD) called me and enjoined me to go on with the delivery and that he would send his team to come over to the hospital .

The team led by the child desk officer later arrived the hospital, took their statement from the lady who by then had put to bed. When the lady saw the team, she became frightened and thought I was out to jail her. It was then she opened up and told us the boy friend she initially claimed to be at large was really a police officer serving with the Abia State Police Command. In the course of investigation, the police officer later showed up and I verified his identity card through the Rivers State Police Command.

After all the verifications, the lady was discharged on the advice of the team from directorate of Social services. Till date, I still wonder how a woman in second stage of labour could have the effrontery to request the sale of her unborn baby even if she does not fear God, does she not fear the uncertainty of labour? I am currently the worst enemy to the Lady who I frustrated her desire to sell her baby.

I am a proudly constructive critic of the present administration. In a stable democracy, all citizens are not expected to be praise-singers of the government hence there must be critics of the government. When president Mohammadu Buhari appointed a medical doctor as the permanent Secretary in the person of Dr (Mrs) Amina Shamaki, I told myself that the present administration has performed creditably well in that aspect. I took a look at the Federal Ministry of Justice; a lawyer is also a permanent secretary.

The story everywhere is that Dr Amina Shamaki is no longer coming to her office for no other reason than her fellow employees have taken the law into their own hand to sack her from office. What is her offence? I asked myself. She is highhanded everybody in the ministry claims. What is the definition of highhandedness by the Nigerian standard? Any leader who refuses to play along with others is fantastically highhanded. To them, if a leader insists that the rules and regulations of an establishment must be strictly obeyed, that leader is labelled highhanded.Go and investigate ,Dr Shamaki might have stepped on toes of some cabals in the ministry hence she must go.

The same highhandedness that unceremoniously removed the former Medical Director of FMC Owerri from office. I travelled to the village recently, I heard where students were discussing that an SSCE supervisor who invigilated them on the day of mathematics was so highhanded that he refused the 'normal' money for signing of their papers. To them, any supervisor that refuses to play along is highhanded and desperately wicked. None of them thinks of how to study hard to pass their examinations. If there is any charge against the Permanent Secretary, what prevents the workers from putting up a petition against her, why must they be threatening her to the extent of her avoiding coming to the office?

If police do not handle their petition well, the EFCC and ICPC are there as alternatives. However, the petitioners should be ready to face the consequences should the petition be found out thereafter to be malicious and defamatory. How many of those calling for the head of the permanent secretary can vouch for the veracity of their claims by backing their petition(s) with a sworn affidavit? Which law in Nigeria empowers coworkers to sack their fellow worker ?

Secondly, I am not oblivious of the disharmony in the health sector and the “vision remove all medical doctors” by our supposed neighbours in the health sector. When Mr Linus Awute (a man with MSC in Agricultural chemistry and soil science) was there no highhandedness was discovered because as one of the JOHESU members proudly boasted to me they are ready to allow the health sector to be led by an engineer or somebody who is not learned in health than allowing a medical doctor superintend over the ministry. Before removing the former medical director of FMC Owerri after the instigating panel set up to probe her exonerated her of all the allegations levelled against her, I warned that a bad precedent was about being entrenched in our civil service.

The current happening at the federal ministry of health is the aftermath of the incident at FMC Owerri and a harbinger of what will befall our sector in the nearest future. After the permanent secretary, the minister of state for health will be warming up. Thereafter the minister of health himself will be ready to climb to the stage and the impunity will continue until all medical doctors will be 'sacked' by their co-employees.

This is time for all men of goodwill to rise to nip this 'cancerous' hostility against doctors at the incipient stage before it “metastasises”. JOHESU has demonstrated her hatred to the appointment of medical doctors to some sensitive positions. In the case of Dr Paul Orhii of NAFDAC, their members wrote several petitions to the then president who ignored their frivolous petitions to appoint Dr Paul Orhii as the DG of NAFDAC. As that was not enough they approached the court where they were finally humiliated and defeated hence the matter was buried.

Although I am a critic of the current administration, president Muhammadu Buhari has performed creditably well in assembling a team of experts in his cabinet and no amount of protest should derail the current administration into employing a non-medical doctor as the permanent secretary of the federal ministry of health especially now the federal ministry of justice still has a lawyer as their permanent secretary in the presence of other professionals in the sector.

In Imo State, a barrister is the commissioner of health, that to JOHESU members is a welcome development provided the post is not given to a medical doctor. No JOHESU member has revolted against such appointment and the workers there are owed their salaries for months. At the twilight of the past administration ,an engineer was appointed as the minister of state for health and no JOHESU member saw it as an aberration but appoint a medical doctor into that post ,petitions will fly here and there. No medical doctor feels threatened by a JOHESU member being the president of NLC or the DG of NIMASA just to mention but a few,why is heaven let loose when a medical doctor is appointed or about to be appointed to a sensitive position?

This loathsome hatred is traceable to the events that occurred in the university. Many of these fellows championing the “Remove all medical doctors in all sensitive positions” either failed out of medicine while in the university or found it difficult in securing admission into medicine and now they are executing “if you cannot join them, kill and remove them”. Why can't they draw inspirations from people like the current vice-chancellor of my alma mata,UNN, Prof B.C Ozumba, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, who failed out of medicine in the 2nd MBBS professional examination.

He did not seek a soft landing in a paramedical course where he would lunch his attacks against his former colleagues in the medical profession, he humbly sought another admission in Lagos where he graduated as a medical doctor came back and became head of department, dean of medical sciences, provost of the college of medicine and now the VC of the same university from where he once failed out of medicine. He is a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of international repute. That is what I called determination and such individuals are my role models.

Believe you me, he would have been one of those causing crises in the health sector today under 'international best practices' ,sacking the permanent secretary at will ,organising industrial actions in all our hospitals ,had he not taken this painful but commendable decision of seeking admission into medicine in far away Lagos. Why fight those who outran you in a race? Why declare enmity against people who never hurt you.

This is important because the incessant molestations of our resident pathologies in their places of work by their supposed neighbours tell you more of what the lawyers called mens rea ,which simply means guilty mind .If not for guilty mind how can simple misunderstanding in a working place always ends in physical assaults?

Unscrupulous elements in our working places have learnt another term called 'highhanded' to unceremoniously remove anybody who refuses to dance to their tunes. To this day, the lady who came to sell her baby in the hospital I consulted sees me as being highhanded, the same way the SSCE supervisor who refused to aid examination malpractice was seen as being highhanded to the students. Dr Amina Shamaki is not alone in this erroneous judgement of being highhanded.Nigerians are watching if the cabals in the ministry win in this contest .

Dr Paul John
Port Harcourt, Rivers state
[email protected],08083658038

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Paul John and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Paul John