Nigeria is currently in an unpleasant situation with the rise in cases of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The virus has affected over a million people and more than 50,000 have died across the world. Coronavirus is not a respecter of anyone regardless of age, position or gender which is evident in the fact that many world leaders have also been infected.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said the only vaccine at the moment is “stay at home”.
Amidst all these, health workers are expected to be on duty.
However, the President of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Abdulrafiu Adeniji in this exclusive interview, spoke with Kabir Adejumo of POLITICS NIGERIA on how the Nigerian government ‘neglects’ the welfare of nurses and midwives.
PN: What’s the level of engagement of the association with the Federal and State governments as a critical stakeholder in Health on the present outbreak?
Abdulrafiu: Collaboration and networking bring about proper understanding and reduces clashes of interest. It brings key stakeholders on the same page and makes the organization to achieve it’s set goals efficiently. When you plan along with key members of the Organization and not always plan for them there will be harmony. But in the case in reference, the Federal government has not learnt from their past misdeeds and there is no adequate engagement in the efforts to combat the COVID 19. This is just a replica of the general health care management style in Nigeria that has not allowed the Nigerian health sector to succeed. The key stakeholders are not been involved at all levels of health care administration and management. This cut across the tiers of governance in Nigeria. If there is an exception it might just be few.
PN: Is the association represented on major committees and task force responding to the pandemic in Nigeria?
Abdulrafiu: The Association are not duly and adequately represented on major committees. What is existing now is just like window dressing and anything done like this is never sustainable therefore it leaves much to be desired. It amounts to lopsidedness, marginalisation and ineffectiveness in our policy formulation, and administration of health care services in Nigeria. It has been like that and all effort to correct this are always resisted and tagged as opposition views. In fact, the Nigeria health care services have been laid siege to by the perpetrators of this ineffective health administration in Nigeria. The evidence is not far fetched. At FMoH despite the unique roles and the marmot number of Nurses and Midwives, there is no substantive department for Nurses and the whole sector is been tucked under the department of hospital services. Even the director of nursing services who has risen to the Director position can not participate in Top Management Meetings of FMoH. What a situation of subjugation and professional discrimination. It is very appalling. This is made like that even up to Teaching Hospital level where a substantive Director of Nursing and Midwifery Education are deprived of the powers to direct affairs and manage the schools’ affairs and often can not relate administratively with the CMD/MD of teaching hospital, bit have to go through about three hierarchy before the views are brought to the Top Manager of the hospitals. A shame on Nigeria health sector.
PN: Does the association have it’s own independent taskforce or committee respond to its members and the public on the pandemic?
Abdulrafiu: Well, to the best of our abilities and means our Association has a working strategy to coordinate our interventionism this pandemic. From Unit to State and Zonal to the National body, we have a communication network and through this, we coordinate the activities. Public health education and awareness are from Unit or individual hospital bases and provisions of relief materials are from unit to State. Engaging FGN and policy formulations, as well as monitoring and coordination of overall activities, are at the purview of the National body. You must learn that apart from the provision of educational materials our branch Association have donated materials like mask, gloves and sanitizer to our members and hospital management.
PN: Considering the heightened risk involved in caring for a patient at a time like this, what insurance plan and reward packages is the association pushing for members on the field from the Government?
Abdulrafiu: Ever before the outbreak of this pandemic we have always called on the government to institute life insurance for Nurses and Midwives as well as other health cares. Such insurance scheme will aid the professionals to perform optimally and with job satisfaction with a sense of security. But up to this present time of the outbreak of the pandemic, it has not been acceded to.
PN: Is the association considering leveraging the attention of the Public and Government to press home its many pending demands such as Hazard allowance, the proper placement of Graduate Nurses in the civil service, adjustment of the CONHESS table and the withheld April and May 2018 salary of Nurses and Midwives working at the Federal level?
Abdulrafiu: There are many unsettled issues that have been causing disharmony in the health sector in Nigeria of which the cause is glaring. The Nigeria health sector is scued in favour of one single Profession i.e Medics.
Unfortunately, we have not had a government that has been able to address this squarely with the vigour it deserved. The claim is that Nigeria has once faired better before Decree 10 of 1985 that buried the fortune and slaughtered the prospect of Nigeria health sector. It brought to bear the partiality of the then Minister of Health Prof. Olikoye Ransom Kuti. He used his vantage position of being very close to then-President Ibrahim Babangida to ruin the peace and harmony in the health sector.
The Public attention is been drawn to the fact that our Association is only acting according to our callings to safe the nation from the scourge of this pandemic and we have not abandoned the injustice and unfair treatment been meted out to our members by the Government. Our issues include but not limited to demands for adequate infrastructure and equipment in our health institutions, review of policies that are dwarfing the development of health care services in Nigeria, like headship of health organization and institutions on health. It also includes an upward review of Hazard allowance and adjustment of the CONHESS salary scale. It goes down to the release and payment of the unlawfully withheld two months salary despite a court judgement and unimplemented Collective Bargaining Agreements.
The improper placement of Graduate Nurses in the civil service. It may interest you to know that this year 2020 has been declared by the World Health Organization as the year of Nurses and Midwives. As part of the activities to mark this celebration the WHO has a protocol that entails motivating, empowering and scaling up of Nurses Workforce; training and recruitment of adequate mix of Nurses and Midwives in an appropriate specialization to meet the attainment of SDG. But Nigeria is yet to act in accordance with WHO directives by treating Nurses and Midwives with levity and holding the Nurses in contempt. Nothing except doing the needful can restore the Nigeria health sector. We are committed to combacting this scourge but we insist on the prerequisite to ensure the safety of our members.