By Oluwabukola Akanni
Ibadan – The Federal Government’s ban of doctors in full time employment in the public service from private practice has been described as a gross violation of fundamental human rights.
Dr Olusegun Ogunnubi, a former Publicity Secretary, Lagos State chapter, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), made the assertion on Thursday in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ibadan.
NAN reports that the Federal Government had on Wednesday announced a ban for medical doctors working in public hospitals to engage in private practice.
The decision was taken at the Wednesday’s Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ogunnubi, also a Consultant Psychiatrist, said that the pronouncement would only make access to quality healthcare difficult for the citizens.
“Private hospitals have been complementing the inadequate government hospitals for ages.
“Many doctors even go to the public hospitals they work with instruments they bought in their private hospitals.
“Apart from further worsening the state of healthcare delivery services to the populace, it will result in loss of jobs.
“Many of these hospitals employ junior doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists, pharmacists and other allied health workers.
“Stopping the doctors who own these hospitals from running private services, may eventually lead to the closure of many private hospitals with its attendant consequences of jobs loss,” he said.
Ogunnubi said that the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) Act makes provision for the medical practitioners in public service to engage in private practice outside their official duty hours.
“MDCN, a body backed by an act of parliament, has stipulated clear codes that doctors are supposed to abide by.
“It clearly states that a registered practitioner in full time employment in the public service is free to employ their spare time or unofficial hours to engage in private practice.
“This kind of pronouncement that doctors once employed in public hospitals should not practice in private hospitals remains ultra vires and as such, is of no effect and contravenes extant provisions of the law.
“On the other hand, the issue of what a doctor does with his private time after the close of the day, if he or she is not on call, remains an individual fundamental human right, which cannot be taken away any time, any day,” he said.
Ogunnubi urged the government to urgently focus on need to improve the quality of healthcare delivery in the country.
“The arguments that it will make doctors to focus on the patients’ care and prevent doctors from diverting public hospitals’ patients or that it won’t make them to go on incessant industrial action do not hold any ground.
“It is simply a case of throwing away a baby with the bad water.
“Rather than this form of pronouncement, government should strengthen the MDCN Act, and ensure that all doctors comply with its provision.
“Government should also balance it up by making healthcare delivery environment very conducive for both the doctors and the patients.
“An ill-equipped public hospital is nothing, but a slaughter’s slab,” he said.