In June this year, an historic event took place in faraway Las Vegas, Nevada, United States of America, when the Association of Nigerian Physicians in the Americas (ANPA) and the Nigerian Association of Pharmacists and Pharmaceutical Scientists in the Americas (NAPPSA), held a joint conference – the first time ever such a collaboration would be taking place.
Prior to this joint conference, the two associations, despite having a lot in common with respect to the goal of their practices, had always held their annual conferences separately and at different times. However, having seen the big picture and the inherent benefits that cooperation among health care professionals can bring to the health care system and the nation as a whole, the two distinguished bodies decided to take the first important step in eliminating the barrier to unity among health care professionals by having that strategic conference.
The momentous event, graced by the Minister of Health, the Chairman of Senate Committee on Health, the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), the leadership of the NMA and the PSN, as well as over 600 physicians, pharmacists, pharmaceutical scientists, and nurses from the USA, Canada, Great Britain and Nigeria, was a great success in all ramifications. This was evidenced by the illuminating resolutions reached at the end of the conference, which were well articulated in the joint post-conference communiqué.
We applaud the vision of these two bodies and their commitment to facilitating a new era of collaboration among health professionals in Nigeria. Already, there are cheering indications that that singular decision of holding a joint conference has helped to kick-start an important process that could, for the first time in the country, foster mutual respect and harmony among the various health professionals in the country for the benefits of patients and the health sector as a whole.
Over the years, palpable tension and disorder had characterised the health sector as a result of inter-professional wrangling, rivalry and unbridled competition among the professionals. This contributed significantly to the setbacks and unenviable reputation that had been the bane of the sector over the years. Excellent patient care had become almost antithetical to the nation’s health care system, not just because of infrastructural deficit, but because of lack of crucial team spirit among the health workers.
It is against this backdrop that the spectacular step taken by ANPA and NAPPSA to remedy the wrongs and rots of the past must be encouraged and pursued with vigour. Worthy of note is that the present PSN leadership has already demonstrated its readiness to intensify this budding team spirit by paying a courtesy visit to the president of the NMA in Abuja recently.
However, it is imperative to take this bridge-building initiative beyond mere camaraderie of leaders of the bodies to every health professional within their spheres of influence and indeed throughout the health sector. Beginning with the PSN and the NMA, concrete steps must be taken to orientate and challenge all the members of the various bodies within the sector towards fostering pragmatic collaboration that will ensure that all are able to duly deploy their full competencies for the benefit of the patient and the health system at large.
It should also be emphasised that the decision of the ANPA and NAPPSA conference to establish a combined ‘Government Affairs Committee’ is a step in the right direction, as most of the contentious issues causing disharmony in the health sector can be traced to the unfair posture of the government towards the welfare issues of various health workers.
We believe that when all the professionals in the health sector embrace collaborative partnership, based on mutual respect, and the Nigerian government plays its part by treating all members of the health team in a way that is seen to be fair and sincere, the level of care to patients will improve and the Nigerian health care delivery system will be holistically transformed. No stone should be left unturned in the pursuit of this noble goal.