Doctors now to have electronic means of Identification

By Dr Paul John
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Dr Paul John

It was a moment of celebration as who-is-who in the medical profession and the society gathered at Madiba Hall of De Edge Resorts and Hotel Ltd, GRA Phase 4 , Port Harcourt to shower encomiums on the newly elected president of Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria (AGPMPN) on Saturday 28th April 2018. His election came about 12 years after Rivers state held that post. It has to be noted that AGPMPN just like her parent body, NMA, has a president at the national level and chairmen at the state level. Meanwhile, in AGPMPN national election, the fear of Lagos state is the beginning of wisdom. Why is Lagos state AGPMPN a strong force to reckon with? The answer is not difficult, Lagos state AGPMPN has 23 zones and each zone has at least 50 members when many states could not even maintain one or three zones not to talk of having 50 members who are financially dedicated in the state. Now you can imagine the economic power Lagos state AGPMPN wields which can break any political barrier in any election. Mind you, in other states, the state ministries of Health do not assist AGPMPN in recovering the dues owed them unlike in Lagos state, where private hospitals owner cannot register or renew their operating licences without being first certified by the state AGPMPN.

It has to be noted that that as the name implies, AGPMPN is an affiliate of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) that regulates doctors in the private practice. Normally, no private hospital operator is supposed to register his facility or even think of renewing his licence with the Ministry of Health in any state without first being recognized and certified by the state AGPMPN. That is the surest way of fighting quackery in the private medical practice. In AGPMPN system of fighting quackery, there is no way a prospective private hospital owner who wants to either register his hospital or renew his existing licence cannot be identified by somebody who graduated from same medical school where he/she claims to have trained. The earlier our state ministries of health and the Directors of Medical Services make good use of AGPMPN to track down quacks in the private medical practice the better for us .Many hospitals were truly registered by registered medical practitioners but when the medical practitioners died, their relatives continued to make use of their medical certificates to renew their operating licences sine die.

Those who introduced Continuing Medical Education (CME) as a requisite for the renewal of annual practising licences did so in order to track quacks and at same time retrain medical practitioners but it is getting clearer to us now that such laudable idea is being abused. Today we have non doctors attending such programmes on behalf of their employers. Some even register for more than 10 of their colleagues who cannot come to the venue of the CME. The organisers of the CME are usually interested in the revenue they will make from more registration of participants as each participant pays money for registration, knowing very well that the higher the registrations the higher the amount of money to be realised by the organisers. It is only AGPMPN that will notify the Ministries of Health through the office of the Directors of Medical Services in the state of the demise of any of their members hence if the deceased do not have any of their children that are doctors then they will be mandated to employ doctors to continue managing the hospitals previously registered by the deceased. To me, this approach will be more productive and effective than the stamp system of tracking quacks because the relatives of any deceased member can as well apply for the NMA stamps and will of course be issued the stamps after paying the required fees. If the relatives of deceased members can renew annual practising licences of deceased with ease then getting the stamps will be a work-over.

The dinner party started at 1915 hours after the grand procession of the newly elected president of the association, Dr Iyke Odo DMP. The opening prayer was said by Dr (Mrs) Korubo .The Rivers state chairman of AGPMPN, Dr Kenneth Da-Wariboko DMP, was introduced by the MC to give a short welcome address. He used only two minutes to welcome the guests for the grand occasion. The first president of the association and chairman of the occasioned Benedict Okpala stood up to give his own welcome address. He praised Port Harcourt private hospital owners for establishing more five-star hospitals, making them the only state branch of AGPMPN that can challenge Lagos state in that aspect. He went ahead to tell us the importance of growing grey hair. The MC immediately introduced Dr Anyanwu who is popularly called ‘alternate’ by his friends to give details of how Rivers state AGPMPN defeated the most feared Lagos state AGPMPN at the recently concluded national election at Kogi state. Dr Anyanwu told the guests that the secret of defeating Lagos state in any election was just to remove them from their comfort zone and that was what happened in Kogi state. Dr Osisindu came on stage to continue from where Dr Anyanwu stopped, he went ahead to talk about the saboteurs in the house who did not only vote against their own state candidates but also campaigned against their candidature .His speech nearly polarised the house as everybody was aware of how a candidate stepped down for Dr Iyke Odo to emerge as the only Rivers state candidate for the post of the president of the association. That I will narrate shortly.

Dr Paul John now growing beard after Daily Trust newspapers used his picture as that of the CMD of UPTH as the only way to disguise himself

At 1955 hours, the man of the occasion was called upon to give his own address. The MC having known Dr Iyke Odo , pleaded with him to make his speech as short as possible. For those who do not know him, Dr Iyke is an orator of international repute. He is well versed in different aspects of life outside medical practice. His hospital, the Meridien Hospital D-line Port Harcourt, is, if not the largest at least one of the top five private hospitals in the state. He employs consultants on full time basis with accommodation. In fact, Dr Iyke Odo is a success story in the area of Private Medical practice and a book needs to be written to that effect. If you view his hospital from Ikoku-end of Olu Obasanjo road, you may assume that the mansion is for a very big church or a five star hotel and when you enter from the gate you will ask which foreigners built the hospital. For those who have listened while Dr Iyke Odo speak ,he talks intelligently from the beginning to the end of his speech, the current Rivers state NMA chairman ,Dr Datonye D. Alasia described Dr Iyke Odo as an orator of the Shakespearean literary prowess.

Dr Iyke Odo started by relieving tension in the hall. When I arrived at the venue I looked round to know if I could see Dr Henry Sota, the immediate state AGPMPN chairman, who stepped down for Dr Iyke Odo but I could not see him, I erroneously concluded that such observation would be the topic of this write up but I was later proved wrong as my ‘myopic sight’ could not allow me see Dr Henry Sota at the front table in the hall. Dr Iyke Odo started by dedicating his victory to Dr Henry Sota who stepped down for him so that Rivers state AGPMPN could produce only one candidate to face the most feared Lagos state candidate. It has to be noted that when Drs Iyke Odo and Henry Sota declared their interests for the national seat, the state branch of the association was confused. It was clear that if Rivers state would go to Kogi state as a divided house then the more united Lagos state would simply drown us at the confluence town. It got to a point that the Rivers state chairman of the association informed the two candidates that a mock election would be held and whoever won the election would be our candidate for the national election.

Surprisingly the two candidates agreed, then a meeting was fixed at the association’s state office at No 4A Nzimiro street, Amadi Flats, old GRA Port Harcourt. It was on a third Thursday of the month which was the association’s monthly meeting day. The chairman was very careful not to put the election matter first on the agenda as that could bring the meeting to an abrupt end. At the tail end of the meeting, the chairman surreptitiously introduced the matter and informed the house that both candidates had agreed and accepted to abide by the outcome of the mock election. At this point, the house became rowdy as some said no election would be held .The other group insisted that the election would be held. A third group immediately sprang up that the two candidates should be allowed to either disgrace themselves as a divided house in Kogi state or Rivers state should not present any candidate for the presidential seat at all. At this point Dr Henry Sota stood up and addressed the house. He said so many things before withdrawing his candidature; the house became more riotous as his supporters refused to accept such reconciliatory move. Many of them left the meeting angrily. At that point Dr Iyke Odo indicated his willingness to address the house. He went down memory lane on how he had informed Dr Henry Sota of his intention to contest the post many months before Dr Sota finally declared his own interest.

While Dr Iyke Odo was talking, remnant of Dr Sota Support group still in the meeting shouted him down but Dr Iyke Odo as an orator was not the type one could easily shout down while he was talking, when the house became quiet he continued from where he stopped and at the end of the day he thanked Dr Henry Sota for stepping down for him and went ahead to make a statement that shook my head. His said ‘Rivers state AGPMPN can now begin to rejoice as Dr Sota’s withdrawal marks the beginning of our victory for the presidential position’ .At this point , half of the members present for the meeting were outside the hall, people were discussing in different groups. The person sitting next to me told me that I should not fear as Dr Iyke Odo had the financial and political clouts to bring that seat to Rivers state. I was wondering how such divided house could win such coveted post against a more united Lagos state. It was clear to me that though Dr Iyke Odo was the only candidate from Rivers state for the post but I was afraid that those who left the meeting halfway could either vote against him or campaign against him at Kogi state national convention.

At this point, I decided to remain neutral as Dr Henry Sota was like a father to me in the state , he believed in me and our firm hence he gave us contract to cover AGPMPN national event held in Port Harcourt last year which was widely reported in the media. On the other hand, Dr Iyke Odo is somebody I respect so much for his entrepreneurial skills having ventured into other areas outside medical practice .His wife’s Diagnostic centre is among the top three centres in the state. In fact Dr Iyke Odo is a role model to me.

That was my reminiscence as Dr Iyke Odo continued his address in the dinner party. He specially thanked Dr Henry Sota on how he worked in his favour to win the election despite all pressures from Dr Sota’s Support group. He likened Dr Sota’s role to his own biological father’s role when he wanted to pull down their old house in the village to build a modern one. After thanking Dr Henry Sota, he went down memory lane to tell us how he toured almost all states of the federation campaigning, including all the 23 AGPMPN zones in Lagos. The rest as they say is now history. He went ahead to reveal part of his administration’s blueprint. He declared his willingness to persuade state ministries of health to work with AGPMPN to eliminate quackery in the profession and to ensure no private hospital will get or renew their licences without being certified by AGPMPN. He stated that HMOs owing hospitals cannot be tolerated by his administration .He revealed his discussion with the Commissioner of Health, Anambra state where he reiterated the need for Public-Private Partnership (PPP).He delved into the pathetic issue of NIMASA owing hospitals when same NIMASA pays hotels upfront .He lamented how doctors should be owed for more than two years by HMOs and NIMASA while hotel bills of these organisations are paid in advance.He informed the house that a Retreat would be held in Port Harcourt in the next two weeks where he would finally bring out his administration’s blueprint.

On the issue of quackery in the private medical practice, he stated that his administration would produce electronic Identity cards for all doctors in the private medical practice where all their information and data would be digitally stored and the data so stored would not be affected even if the doctors worked in more than ten hospitals per year. He stated that junior doctors working in private hospitals would pay 50% of the AGPMPN dues while enjoying 100 % of all AGPMPN benefits. He stated his resolve not to allow private hospitals to face their challenges alone in that AGPMPN should not be ready to collect dues from members alone but it would also be ready to assist any member in resolving any challenge. His address lasted for 24 minutes which the MC described as Dr Iyke’s shortest speech in the recent time.

At this juncture, the commissioner of Health, Rivers state, Prof Chike mounted the podium to address the gathering. He gave reasons why he was not at Kogi state for the national convention, revealing how he was called back by his boss while he was at the airport. He likened himself as the biblical Joseph who was miraculously positioned in Egypt ahead of famine that later struck the world then. He stated clearly that he belonged to AGPMPN and resisted to explain more as government officials were not permitted to say everything in public. On the issue of having saboteurs in the house, he assured everybody that such was part of politics. He advised all aggrieved members to work with the newly elected National Officers’ Committee (NOC) especially those from Rivers state branch of the association which include Dr Iyke Odo (President);Dr Ernest Chukwuma (VP2); and Dr Edmund Anuforo ( National Treasurer). He pledged to work closely with AGPMPN in the state and at the national level to eliminate quackery in its entirety. He went ahead to reveal that the Rivers state Contributory Health Insurance Programme (RIVCHIP) would soon be unveiled.

The next to address the gathering was the state NMA chairman, Dr Datonye Alasia, who started by recognising all the present and past state NMA leaders in the house who were not previously recognised by the MC. They were as follows: two past NMA Chairmen Dr Bob-Manuel and Dr Ibifuro Green .Also present in the dinner was the current vice chairman of the state, Dr (Mrs) Obelebra Adebiyi whose name had been a source of concern to me as a writer, a combination of Rivers state name with Yoruba name. As if the NMA chairman was in my mind, he simply clarified that confusion in my head, explaining that she was a Kalabari woman married to a Yoruba man. Although state campaign has not started, we may throw our weight behind her if she declares her interest to vie for the chairmanship position of the Rivers state NMA, I know Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) will be on the same page with me, at least let there be a female NMA chairman (or chairperson) in our own time. Another member of the NMA State Officers’ Committee (SOC) in the house was Dr Abbey, the current treasurer of the association, whose overwhelming credentials scared all female opponents away, compelling him to contest unopposed, a post that was before then an exclusive preserve of female colleagues. He is also the charter president of my Downtown branch of Rotary Club Port Harcourt.

After recognizing the past and present NMA state ‘excos’ , Dr Alasia went ahead to state that Rivers state getting three AGPMPN NOC positions was part of his achievement in office and that would appear in his profile soon. He spoke about confluence of ideas as many of the ideas of the newly elected AGPMPN president were in tandem with those of the honourable commissioner of Health of the state and his own outgoing administration. He went further to declare that there was no other affiliate of NMA that controls private practice except AGPMPN. After his speech, Dr Iyke Odo and the wife opened the floor with their nuptial dance at 2145 hours as ‘light and heavy’ refreshments continued. Thereafter other guests joined them in the dancing floor. It was at this point I remembered I had to return to my house as many of them still dancing on the floor at that time of the night might have their own hotel rooms reserved for them.