A delegation of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) last Thursday visited the National Assembly Complex to unveil Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, as the face of health checkups in Nigeria.
Designating Mr. Tambuwal as the ambassador of local health checkup campaign, NMA President Osahon Enabulele called for the re-organization and reformation of the health sector in order to restore professional dignity. Most Nigerian political leaders and their families make foreign medical trips that cost Nigeria several billions of naira each year.
Dr. Enabulele also said the NMA was demanding improved working conditions for medical practitioners as well as training, capacity building, and security.
The NMA leader announced that his association, through its health mission campaign, had offered free medical and dental services to 8,000 Nigerians. He disclosed that the campaign holds every four months and is rotated to different parts of the country.
The association announced that the next edition of its health mission would hold in Mr. Tambuwal’s hometown in Sokoto State. The NMA plans to use the occasion to formally introduce the speaker as the face of their campaign to convince more Nigerian politicians to seek medical treatment in the country.
“NMA would like to unveil the face of Mr. Speaker as the face of health check-up in Nigeria during our next national health mission, which with the support of Mr. Speaker, shall take place in the 2nd week of August, 2013 in Tambuwal Village, Sokoto state,” said Mr. Enabulele.
During the visit, the NMA leader complained about various gross abuses of health rights of Nigerians and poor work conditions for doctors. He drew attention to the failure to include Nigerians’ rights to healthcare in proposals for the amendment of the country’s constitution, despite efforts and mobilization by members of the NMA. He also called Mr. Tambuwal’s attention to the crippling of resident doctors’ training as a result of an abrupt reduction in the fund allocation for the health sector in the 2013 budget of the federal government.
The NMA’s address also highlighted vicious attacks on health workers, noting that last week’s siege on the Maiduguri Teaching Hospital by mobile policemen left a resident doctor with a femoral fracture.
A source in the NMA told SaharaReporters that the association sought the speaker’s support for consistent health checkups as part of a strategy to convince Nigerian political functionaries to abandon the habit of going abroad for treatment. “It is a matter of embarrassment that our politicians frequent overseas hospitals sometimes just to check their blood pressure,” said the NMA official.
During the visit to Mr. Tambuwal, the NMA leader made a symbolic gesture of checking the speaker’s blood pressure, thereby making the point that it was unnecessary for politicians to go abroad for such everyday checks.
One of the NMA members said, “I do not think [the politicians] are going abroad to get any special touch. After all, we know those they are going there to meet are also Nigerian doctors who are based abroad.” The source said he wished that Mr. Tambuwal would influence other politicians to cease scrambling abroad for medical checkups. “We are about to unveil the Honorable Speaker as the face of health checkup in Nigeria. We trust he’s going to set a good example by going to Nigerian hospitals and doctors.”
Another NMA member who owns a clinic in Abuja told SaharaReporters that numerous hospitals in the country have equipment for many kinds of diagnosis and treatment for which many Nigerians flock to foreign hospitals.
“For example, stem cell transplantation machines have since been in Benin and functioning, but people still go to India,” said the doctor. He stated that stem cell transplantation is used to correct deficiencies in sickle cell patients to enable them to live like other healthy persons.