Health Commissioner Laments Neglect On Doctors’ Welfare

Commissioner for Health Ebonyi State, Dr. Daniel Umezuruike has called on doctors to join politics so as to contribute to decision making in the country.

Adding that at the National Assembly, lawyers and other professionals are there but doctors do not contest for any election.

Umezuruike said this during the opening ceremony of the 2019 Nigerian Medical Association, Ebonyi State Branch Physicians’ week, held at Women Development Centre Abakaliki, on Wednesday, October 2019 with the team,“Care of an Unknown Patient” .

Represented by the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr. Christian Achi, he maintained that the welfare of doctors is at stake in Nigeria.

“How many doctors do we see in the National Assembly? The places where decisions are made you won’t see doctors there because they are busy in their clinics. We should come out of our comfort zones as doctors so that we can be part of the decision-makers. In Ebonyi State, this is the first time a doctor is made a permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health. So there is a need for our doctors to protect our own profession,” he charged.

He emphasized that medical doctors’ welfare is neglected in the country.

“judges retire with their full benefits and they retire at the age of 70, but doctors retire into penury. Many of our older colleagues retire without even pension, so the welfare of our colleagues in retirement should be looked into and that is the duty of NMA nationwide. We need to do more, if judges retire at 70, there is no way our consultants should not retire at 70, not just retiring at 70, and they should go home with their full benefits just like judges.

Former minister of Health, and pioneer chairman of NMA Ebonyi State Chapter, Dr, Onyebuchi Chukwu, represented by the MD, fistula Centre Abakaliki, Dr Johnson Obunna in his remarks, noted that what he nurtured as the chairman of the Union has grown to be largely adopted by the Association.

He urged them to imbibe the culture of addressing themselves as ‘Doctors’ when they come together to celebrate instead of adding titles like ‘Prof’ among others.

In his address, the NMA State Chairman, Dr. John Egede, explained that physicians’ week was to honor and celebrate themselves for their contributions to the wellbeing of their immediate communities and the society in general as well as to discuss those factors that militate against provision of effective healthcare services to Ebonyians and Nigerian in general.

He said, “In view of the myriads of challenges in our society today, including but not limited to insecurity, and economic woos, it may be imperative to ask what happens to such patient? Should we go-ahead to treat, who gives consent for surgeries/ procedures and who pays at the end whether the patient survives or succumbs to the emergency? Do we have social policies in place to take care of this?” he stated.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Emmanuel Uche Eni, consultant surgery, Alex Ekwueme Federal University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki, (AE-FUTHA) in  his lecture Titled: “Care of the Unknown Patient”: An Overview”, said  ‘Unknown Patient’ as a patient whose identity cannot be ascertained at the time of arrival to the hospital, stressing that little or nothing is known about the patient’s personal or family details at the first point of contact with the emergency care team. And that it may also be that the patient is unable or unwilling to give his/her identity due to one reason or the other.

He pointed out that the unknown patients are always brought in by the police, Road safety corps or a Good Samaritan.

“We decided to do a 5-year review of our records for the purposes of this presentation. A total of 15, 542 new patients were seen in our Accident and Emergency (Surgery side) over the period. There has been a remarkable increase in the traffic of patients when you compare 2015 and 2019. The total number of unknown patients over the period was 91, accounting for 0.6% of all patients. Of the unknown patients, 50 (55%) were alive on presentation, while 41 (45%) were brought indeed (BID).

Eni said that the mortality rate amongst unknown patients presenting at the A/E is observed to be generally higher than the known patients, which is attributed to the higher injury severity score which unknown patients tend to have, as well as a gap in offering such patient timely and appropriate intervention.

He further states that challenges encountered at the A/E unity of AE-FUTHA when handling an unknown patient to include care, logistics, funding, consent, legal, discharge.

The consultant also proposed that in the absence of universal health coverage, there is a need for government to budget specifically for the health of paupers, under which unknown patients can be treated.

He commended the Ebonyi State Government for its regular intervention on  Awaiting Bill Settlement and recommended that to reduce the incidence of Unknown Patients, that road accidents need to be reduced since the majority of such patients are victims of Road Traffic Accidents.

He emphasized the need to train drivers before issuing a license, to stop overloading, over speeding, drunk drivers and answering the phone while driving.

While the secondary preventive measures are enforcement of helmet for Okada riders, which will reduce head injury drastically in case of a crash, and also the use of seat belts, while comprehensive National ID card and or National DNA database will help in easy identification.

Other speakers at the event included  Dr. Christian Eze, Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr. Chinonyelum Thecla Ezeonu, Department of Pediatrics, AE-FUTHA, Dr. David Okoafor, Dr. Igwe Peace Chinyere,  Dr. Bernard Ituma, among others.

On his part, the Chairman, Physicians’ week organizing committee, Dr. N.O.K Obayi, noted that the theme of this year’s event, ‘care for the unknown patient’, is a good one that deserves a careful look at by both doctors and general public, adding that the issue of unknown patient should concern everybody.

“Two subthemes dwelling on the role of NMA in curbing the rising incidence of suicide in our country and the doctor as an entrepreneur are of utmost importance to all of us” he added.

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