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NMA, AMLSN pledge to end inter-professional rivalries

  • “No delay, end disputes for the good of your patients now,” Kaduna deputy governor urges

The Acting Governor (in white) being conducted round some of the medical laboratory equipment at the conference venue

There seems to be end in sight to disharmony between the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN), as leaders of the two groups have pledged to end their over-a-decade rivalry.

NMA and AMLSN did only resolve to end disharmony between them, they also appealed to other professional groups in the sector to embrace peace, the only way they said they could better serve patients in their care.

The pledge and call were made at AMLSN’s 53rd Annual Scientific Conference and Workshop in Kaduna on Tuesday.

It was perhaps the first time in over a decade that a leader of NMA would make such an appearance at AMLSN’s event – coming after AMLSN had dragged NMA to court over 10 years ago to redress perceived injustice meted on it by the doctors.

Recall that professional rivalries in Nigeria’s health sector have led to countless industrial actions among the workforce and resultant deaths of patients. The actions are also believed to have contributed greatly to poor state of the nation’s health systems.

Speakers at the Kaduna conference expressed optimism that NMA and AMLSN’s friendship would result in bringing other warring professional groups in the country together.

NMA President, Prof. Mike Ogirima, said at the event: “I bring good tidings from over 42,000 Nigerian doctors actively practicing in Nigeria. While I was being introduced, somebody expressed a shock that NMA president is here. I said yes, I have to be here because of your leader.

“T. Y. Raheem is a very dependable ally. He is a man of peace, and when we met shortly when I took over at NMA, I said I have brought a bridge agenda, and that bridge agenda is hotly pursued. But, don’t mind the hiccups, in a house, you can quarrel. But, I was glad to be here this morning to notice the elders of this profession…Let’s get back to the roots, if anywhere we have made mistake, let’s ask for forgiveness and come together. This is because we are in hospital environment because of our patients. The values have changed. Everybody is craving for money.

“The main crisis in the hospital set up, particularly in the lab is who controls the budget? That is the quarrel. But, let’s not neglect our patients. Let’s not chase titles. Let’s not chase position. In fact, my teacher is here, Prof. H. S. Isa, (a medical laboratory scientist) he taught me Chemical Pathology. That respect is there forever. I respect him. And, I thank you sir for the knowledge imparted in me.

“Currently, patients are coming together against the health workers. They are now pursuing rights of patients. A bill is being sponsored, and I am using this opportunity to call on all health professionals working in the hospital under the ministry of health to come together so that we can help patients. Let’s stop pointing fingers at each other. Of course, when litigation comes, it is the doctor they call to face the music.”

AMLSN president, Alh. Toyosi Raheem, was also of the same opinion as he sued for peace and urged all members of the nation’s health team to work in unity for the good of the patients.

Lauding the contributions of AMLSN to Nigerian health systems, Deputy Governor of Kaduna State, Architect Bala Bantex, appealed to all health professionals in the country to work as a team.

“While government is doing its best to provide appropriate work environment in our hospitals, it is disheartening to observe the growing needless disharmony among the various health professionals that constitute the health team. As a result of this, the quality of care is adversely affected to the detriment of the sick. Rather than embark on the unhealthy battle for supremacy, I call on you to strive to be at your best chosen field or specialization.

“This is what will give you professional fulfilment and satisfaction. And, by the way, the president (AMLSN) alluded to this. And, he appears to be looking forward to the future when these issues shall be resolved, and, on behalf of the Governor of Kaduna state, I want it settled today and now. After all, the NMA President and AMLSN President are here. The great takeaway for us is that you resolve this issue before you leave Kaduna state,” Bantex, who currently acts as governor in the state said.

Similarly, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief Akin Olujimi, who handled the litigation for AMLSN at the time both groups were in court urged the doctors and medical laboratory scientists to forget the past and work together as a team.

“I became friend to AMLSN soon after the enactment of the Act no 11 of 2003,” Olujimi said of the act which pitched NMA against AMLSN.

“I am happy again to see that the NMA President is here. We (AMLSN and himself) have been doing battle with them which I think is quite unnecessary. All that is missing is misunderstanding. I am a lawyer. When this Act was brought to me, I saw immediately that the Medical Laboratory Scientists has been recognized as a professional body. That was the reason I said I would take the case, and I took it; even when payment of (litigation fee by AMLSN) was a big issue. I decided to do it free for them. It was a long-drawn battle, and I am happy that we did it.

“I heard the NMA President when he made his goodwill message to you, it seems that the coast is clear, maybe you have looked at it for a full settlement of this misunderstand. This is because all that it takes is this acceptance that you are members of a team. None of you is indispensable to the treatment of the patient. Once you accept this very little point, you will find out that you can work together as a team,” Olujimi noted.

He said the NMA or any other professional body within the health team would not lose anything if it accepts the significance of the other within the health team.

In his remark, AMLSN’s icon, Prof Dennis Agbonlahor expressed delight and averred that the call being made by the leaders was the way to go.

“Today, I feel very happy as a medical laboratory scientist, as a member of AMLSN, and as AMLSN Ambassador for Nigeria. I feel fulfilled. When I leave here this afternoon, I will go and sleep well. If I thought that NMA President would stand one day and address us the way the NMA President and the previous one (Dr Omende Idris) spoke on the need for unity, on the need for teamwork, which we have tried to preach over the years (I might not believe it would happen) Today is a very special day in our lives.

“Like the governor said in his speech, this is the turning point. And, we must all leave here today as medical lab scientists, as medical doctors, as pharmacists, as nurses, the health team must now work together. No more bickering, no more bickering. Enough is enough,” he said.

Acting Registrar, Medical Laboratory Science Council, Mr Tosan Irabor, former NMA President, Dr Omede Idris, also lent their voices to achieving and maintaining peace among the nation’s health practitioners.

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