(By Iheanyi Ezinwo) -The Federal Executive Council’s decision forbidding medical doctors in public hospitals from private practice has been received with mixed feelings by Nigerians.
While some reasoned that the decision taken by the Muhammadu Buhari led Federal Government would check the conflict of interest among doctors, others are arguing that the public hospitals are poorly equipped and run in a very inefficient manner, thereby pushing people to private hospitals.
Prior to the ban which was announced on Wednesday, many citizens who considered the frequency of strikes among doctors in Nigeria as unhealthy have suggested this option of government stopping doctors in public hospitals from contemporaneously engaging in private practice as a way of minimizing distractions and enhancing health care delivery in government hospitals.
The action, which the ministers of labour and health, Senator Chris Ngige and Prof. Isaac Adewole, in a joint press briefing in Abuja said was taken to compliment the second decision to begin to enforce the no work no pay doctrine any time workers in Nigeria opt to go on strike.
The initiatives, according to the ministers will hopefully check the tendencies among doctors and other group of workers in Nigeria to regularly embark on strikes in manners that are inconsistent with the Trade Dispute Act.
Meanwhile, in his reaction to the development, a Port Harcourt based international media consultant, Clem Ofuokwu has argued that the decision has some merits:
“The move is to deal with conflict of interest, and not to checkmate the establishment of private hospitals. Most of the doctors in public hospitals spend their time at their private clinics thereby leaving the patients they’re supposed to attend to in government run hospitals at the mercy of trainee personnel.
“There are also cases where patients are referred to their clinics under the guise that they would get better care there. The nation is short changed by these unwholesome practices. The policy is not to make things worse for the masses but to stop doctors from unduly enriching themselves.
“ If they prefer private practice then they should resign. I think the debate should focus on their pay check rather than why they shouldn’t run private clinics while still working for the government”, he maintained.
However, in his own response to the ban on private practice by doctors in public hospitals, Ata –Awaji Anthony, a media executive in Port Harcourt said the action is not in the interest of Nigerians.
“The embargo on medical doctors working for government, making it illegal for them to engage in private practice is not in the interest of Nigerians. It can only be in the interest of Nigerians when the president, governors, ministers, lawmakers and other political ‘staff’ are made by law to stop seeking medical attention abroad.
“When, and if they stop going abroad for medical attention, they would ensure our hospitals appear, in all things, like the ones in London and elsewhere. Then, perhaps, only a few would seek medical care from private hospitals and doctors would stop establishing hospitals.
“Currently, doctors and non doctors are establishing private hospitals because there is need for it-the masses want their services. What is happening in the medical sector is not different from what is plaguing the education sector where there is an upswing in the establishment of private schools.
“ Government should not punish medical doctors for its failure to put affluence on the scale that can remove the afflictions of the masses, which is the essence of governance”, he reasoned.