Address by the president of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Sir. Dr. Kayode Obembe, on the occasion of the flagging off ceremony of the 2015 physicians’ week on Sunday 25th October, 2015 at NMA national secretariat, Abuja.
PROTOCOL: On behalf of the National Officers’ Committee (NOC) of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), I welcome everyone to the flagging off ceremony of our Association’s 2015 Physicians’ Week holding at all the 36 States of the Federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. We are immensely grateful to everyone for honouring our invitation to grace this epoch making event. Every year, the NMA sets aside a week in the month of October to Organise the Physicians’ Week. This week long activities were originally fashioned in line with the World Health Day activities of the World Health Organisation. Some countries of the world do observe separate national doctors’ day- March 30 in USA, July 1 in India, December 3 in Cuba, etc, however, NMA chooses a week in the month of October to mark ours and have expanded the scope to maximally utilise the opportunity at the National level choosing a theme that suits emerging trends and issues as they relate to the present health situation and realities in the country. The Physicians’ week offers doctors and dentists in Nigeria a special opportunity to have a critical appraisal of the medical profession and practice, the Healthcare system and other important contemporary national and global issues. It also offers medical and dental practitioners opportunity to interact with their patients and the general public and also offer humanitarian services to Nigerians as part of their corporate social responsibility.
The theme of this year’s celebration Routine Immunization in the Change Era ;Targeting Measles and other vaccines Preventable diseases and sub theme, the National Health Act 2014 & Immunisation, reflect on the near success story of our nation in her dogged determination and struggles to eradicate Polio, Measles and other vaccines preventable illnesses and the dissection of the potentialities of relevant provisions of the NH Act 2014 in revitalizing immunization activities vis a vis expected roles of members of the medical Professions in actualising that. The activities earmarked for the celebration include a formal Guest Lecture on the theme and Sub themes, Special Jumat prayers and Thanksgiving services at designated Mosques and churches respectively, Medical Mission/Outreach to poor rural and vulnerable communities and a host of other activities that involves giving back to the society. In FCT this year, we shall conduct free medical outreach at the Wassa Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp near Apo Abuja. There would also be a public health education/enlightenment forum on STROKE at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel targeted at the ever busy but poor health seeking senior Executive class. NMA belongs to all and cares for all.
The 2015 Physicians’ Week is therefore historic in coming at a period when the word-CHANGE is perhaps the commonest slogan not only in Nigeria but overseas. We believe that this change mantra should also affect and impact positively on the health sector. This is the basis of the theme ROUTINE IMMUNIZATION IN THE CHANGE ERA. The theme lecture of the 2015 Physicians’ week will be delivered by the Executive Director/CEO of the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency Dr. Ado J.G. Mohammed while the Sub-theme lecture will be delivered by Dr. Ben Anyene Chairman of Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) who convened the coalition of NMA, other professional and civil society organisations that led to the passage and assent to the NH Act 2014. We couldn’t have chosen better speakers as they are not just knowledgeable in the assigned areas but are in fact midwives delivering the dividends contained therein. So, I appeal to all especially members of the Press to come and get the strong messages which our speakers have for the nation tomorrow. Preventable child hood diseases like Measles ought not to still exist in Nigeria. Our record shows that Measles is one of the leading causes of death among young children and in 2013, there were 145, 700 measles deaths globally and about 400 deaths every day or 16 deaths every hour. We also observed that Measles vaccination resulted in a 75% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2013 worldwide. We also discovered that between 2000 and 2013, measles vaccination prevented an estimated 15.6 million deaths making measles vaccine one of the best buys in public health. Whereas some states of the federation are doing well, data from the Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) 2013 shows that some states performed woefully. But, change has come! There is no specific treatment for measles. Those that recover from the disease run the risk of developing complications: blindness, encephalitis, severe diarrhea, ear infection and pneumonia. Primary prevention of measles and other vaccine preventable illnesses therefore remain the game changer- top of the pack in our efforts to eradicate these aliments.
The phrase ‘Routine Immunization’ suggests an activity that is taken repetitively without extra effort or innovation and therefore deserves no serious attention. Could this perhaps be the reason why it has taken us long to make the modest achievements so far in preventing vaccine preventable illnesses in our children? Could this be the reason why perhaps some of our states governments seem not bothered about the funding, coordination and sustenance of this program? Could this too explain why such an important game changing intervention program be left to be substantially funded by donor funds? Perhaps, this too, is the reason why few are bothered about the fate of immunisation programs in the face of donor fund withdrawal. How about the unwholesome and bitter experiences many heath workers have faced, and kept on facing in the field? These and many more prompted us to posit that the Change mantra should stir up some effects in us as a people to eliminate the apathy or lack of commitment in all quarters so that we start prioritising activities and programs in order of importance. To eliminate the frustrating experiences from health workers that carry out this immunization, Nigerian Medical Association is of the strong opinion that time has come for a more critical appraisal of Nigeria’s primary and secondary healthcare systems-the strata that should give stronger institutional impetus to immunization activities in the country. Should our primary health care been active, responsive and highly resourced, routine immunisation which is one of its cardinal programs would have in fact been routine and not taken for granted. In the absence of a virile PHC system, the journey would still be too fortuitous, cumbersome and therefore, fraught with many ups and downs. We are all ears to hear what the Speakers would say concerning these posers tomorrow.
Towards fighting this scourge and many other health conditions which embarrass our nation today, the Nigerian Medical Association thinks that the time is ripe to declare a national emergency in the Health sector. This will entail putting all machinery in place towards eradicating this embarrassing health situation from Nigeria by adapting a Country plan as guided by the WHO Measles elimination plan. This plan was endorsed by Nigeria in September 2011 during the 6th Session of WHO Regional Committee for Africa. I wish to state emphatically that in Nigeria, there should be a strengthening of the strategies already put in place for effective routine immunization and elimination of measles and other vaccine preventable diseases in Nigeria. We should further look for additional knowledge and other aids perhaps what we are doing is not good enough. This is why we’ve brought those who are better to educate us and stir us up to more action tomorrow. We also wish to use this medium to restate our earlier call for our country to start the implementation of road map towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Today, there is an enabling legislation which provided guaranteed funding for primary healthcare delivery. This is the National Health Act 2014. What is still holding us back? It is also our position that unless Nigeria embarks on Community Based Health Insurance Scheme, the dream of expanding the coverage and achieving the targets set for the National Health Insurance Scheme would still be a mirage. We strongly await the appointment and assumption of office of the Minister of Health. A lot has suffered in the absence of a Minister of Health for the nation. However, this scenario of leaving this sort of vacuum could have been avoided had our successive appeals for the re-establishment of the office of- and appointment of the “Chief Medical Officer” of the Federation. This office was last held by Sir Dr. Samuel Layinka Ayodeji Manuwa CMG, OBE in the first republic – the golden era of progressive development in healthcare delivery in Nigeria.
As we speak today, there is no functional regulation for medical practice in Nigeria due to the wrongful dissolution of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. NMA is looking up to your Excellencies tomorrow to use your clout and unbeaten record of silent but effective advocacy to appeal to Mr. President to exempt the Medical council from the sweeping dissolution of other political boards of corporation and agencies of Government. Except the Chairman, no other member of the Council is appointable by the President- explaining the uniqueness of the MDCN. It is perhaps only in Nigeria that medical practice could exist without regulation for even a day. Please, do something sir. Similarly, Nigerian Medical Association has been disturbed over the rising cases of sudden death in Nigeria, particularly among productive male and female age groups. We believe that in as much as we talk about child survival, we must also look at the lifestyle of the adults for this have tremendously reduced the life expectancy of our populace. As the “Face of Healthy Living and Health Check-ups in Nigeria”, NMA is looking up to the Excellencies tomorrow to live up to this high office. We are in need of support for promotion and execution of the healthy living campaign in Nigeria- a campaign that would have something for every citizen.
This speech cannot be complete without my commending Nigerian Physicians for working hard to sustain Nigeria’s healthcare system despite the various challenges being faced in the health sector. We specially salute our colleagues working in the North Eastern parts of Nigeria where insurgency has taken, and keeps on endangering the lives of many. May I thank God Almighty for seeing us through these perilous times and pray for the souls of departed as a result of insurgency in different parts of the country that they may find peace with their creator. May Nigeria and posterity remember you for good. We shall never forget the most patriotic sacrifice of the late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adedavoh of the Ebola misfortune. We pray our nation appreciates her efforts by immortalising her some day. It’s not all about woes as we as a people have developments to celebrate. Ebola died in Nigeria about a year ago courtesy of the efforts of all Nigerians who cooperated with the authorities and did all they were asked to do. Nigeria has successively interrupted the transmission of the wild polio virus en route WHO certification of Polio eradication in 2017. Let’s all pat ourselves in the back as these are no mean feats. We truly appreciate all our resource persons, Heads of other Professional Associations, NMA FCT Branch, Our Chief Host and invited guests who despite their tight schedules will be expected at the opening ceremony. I congratulate everyone here present for your attendance at this flagging off ceremony and wish all of us a memorable week ahead.
To God be the Glory.
Long Live Nigerian Medical Association!
Long Live the Federal Capital Territory!!
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
Sir, Dr. Kayode OBEMBE B.Sc, Med. Sc., MBBS, FMCOG, FWACS, FIAMN, FAGP, FICS, DMP Hon. DG., M.O.W.,J.P, KJW.
President, Nigerian Medical Association
Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Christus Specialist Hospital Nig. Ltd
Chief Executive Officer, Premier Medicaid Nig Ltd–HMO
Council Advisor, World Medical Association.