The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, yesterday demanded that government allow its members, nationwide, to have special number plates carrying ‘doctor’ on their vehicles.
Newly-elected President of the association, Lawrence Obembe, made the request in Abuja while presenting his administration’s roadmap at a media briefing.
Obembe, whose administration’s objectives revolve around the need for the country to attain universal health coverage, argued that special number plates for doctors was necessary given various road accidents which called for urgent attention of medical professionals.
He said the group had called for a Medical Rescue Squad about a decade ago, which entails government providing ambulances for NMA in the states so that doctors could promptly move to wherever there is an emergency.
“The doctors can even draw roaster and quickly know that we are the one on duty to take care of these emergencies.
“For example, if there is an emergency along Lokoja road, most of the vehicles will just park off and begin to sympathise. If for example, we all have network all over the country manned by NMA, we’ll know immediately, like 999, we pick the ambulance, we pick the nurses and go to the site. And, this I think is very important.
“We are going to hammer on this later because on this, we are going to ask for plate number for doctors’ cars.
“A doctor’s car is an ambulance if there is accident. Once you are driving and you have your plate number that says you are a doctor, they wait you down and immediately you carry the patient.
“You can even do some resuscitation. People should not think that when we are asking for plate number, these doctors want to arrogate to themselves some special privileges, no! It is a responsibility that will help us to save lives and help us to make sure we keep everybody on their toes when there is an accident,” he added.
Speaking further, Obembe called for security details for doctors across the country, even as he condemned kidnapping of members by criminals.
“It seems as if the kidnappers now have eyes on doctors; this must be discouraged. If you take the statistics of the people who are kidnapped, doctors are the highest. I don’t know the reason why.
“Even the kidnappers when they are sick, I am sure they go to hospital, and we are going to treat them. We plead that government should provide police protection for doctors. It is not new; they have provided it for lawyers, the magistrates. So, let the government provides police protection for doctors,” he said.
Meanwhile, the association has warned the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to withdraw its purported circular on the inclusion of Medical Laboratory Science Council of Nigeria’s, MLSCN, Registration and Product Certification as part of criteria for importation of in-vitro diagnostics, IVDs into Nigeria.
The association restated its commitment in improving the nation’s health sector, but warned the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, who had vowed to proceed on industrial action soon if government fails to meet its demand, that such strike must not affect patients at the hospitals.
While providing mechanisms for meeting the universal health coverage, Obembe informed that 98 per cent of the current coverage in the country was for federal civil servants.
In a model he presented, he called for 25 per cent contribution each from federal, state and local governments, while individual pays the rest.
“What is most disappointing in the scheme is the fact that 98 per cent of the coverage has been only for federal civil servants, the states and local governments have not come on board, and in some instances even constitute impenetrable barrier towards reaching the community.
“Most appalling again is the fact that 80 per cent of disease burden can be managed in properly organised community health insurance programme, 15 per cent at secondary level and only 5 per cent should actually navigate to tertiary level, but the reverse is the case; teaching hospitals are inundated with catarrh, malaria, diarrhoea etc.
“Artificial barriers and imaginary concepts are always devised to forestall necessary access to adequate healthcare at community level and so our health indices remain dastardly macabre,” he added.
Other issues listed by the association for prompt consideration by government include: abducted girls in Chibok, Borno state; Surgeon- General/Minister of Health, diaspora doctors/ medical tourism; national health bill; residency training programme – overseas attachment.
Others are placement of fresh medical graduates for housemanship; security for doctors – police protection; relativity in health sector; retirement age at 70 and skipping