ACPN accuses FMoH, MDCN, others of destroying health sector

by Sharon O. Isaalah, Abuja

The rift between different professional groups in the medical profession seems not to be over, as the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) has accused the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) of ruining the health sector and losing control in its oversight functions.

The community pharmacists also accused the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) of relegating them and doing everything possible to make them lose relevance and suffocate community pharmaceutical practice in the country. They also accused private physicians of exploiting patients without a cause.

In a statement delivered by the national chairman and secretary of ACPN, Adewale Oladigbolu and Ambrose Ezeh, respectively, the group lamented that the registrar of MDCN, Tajudeen Sanusi, recently took to the media and accused community pharmacists of consulting patients and prescribing medication for them, which, according to Sanusi, was unacceptable.

According to the community pharmacists, a recent systems audit in the civil service by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission (ICPC) confirmed that the ministries, departments and agencies in the health sector were the most corrupt in the country, where virtually all the CEOs of federal health institutions (FHIs) were indicted for indulgence in sleaze funds in their methodologies.

“Sanusi, in a statement urged, regulatory bodies in health to wake up to their responsibility of regulating, monitoring, evaluating and punishing the bad behaviour of their erring members. He posited that medical officers caught “toying with the lives of their patients by being negligent, corrupt and showing gross incompetence while managing their patients…” should be disciplined.

“But it’s crystal clear that the half-hearted measures to punish erring physicians are only directed at best at neophyte members or the underdogs, while the real culprits walk away with their booties.

“Why has the MDCN not been able to call its very tyrannical hierarchy to order when they refuse to implement public service rules, government circulars, directives and related instruments when they perceive that the benefit packages inherent give a boost to persons who are members of other constituencies outside medical practice?”

The pharmacists affirmed that the only reason physician-CEOs of FHIs and other MDAs continue to malfunction and misbehave rather than excel in good conduct like the registrar of the MDCN attempts to paint was because they had their tracks well covered by MDCN and the physicians dominated and infested FMoH to cover their tracks in their many dysfunctional acts.

He said, “One glaring area of the deficit knowledge base of the registrar of MDCN was his reference to community pharmacies as becoming centres where patients consult pharmacists and they obtain medicines thereafter in the pharmacies.”

They called the attention of MDCN registrar to National Health Act, 2014, which recognises pharmacies, laboratories, physio-clinics and others as health facilities in Nigeria. That act allows all registered care-providers to have access to patients and their records, saying, “Community pharmacists who are consulted by a patient for his health and drug needs, therefore, do not violate any law in Nigeria.”

They stressed that, in handling medicines on a global basis, Sanusi should understand that drugs are classified as over-the-counter (OTC), pharmacist initiated medicines (PIM), prescription only medicine (POM) and controlled drugs.

Therefore, a pharmacist has an unhindered liberty to dispense OTC and PIM without liaising with any other practitioner because the scope of his training covers it.

“The registrar of MDCN is a busybody, which is why he cannot see the aberrations committed by his lawless members who operate in the private sector in particular.

“Over 99 per cent of the private hospitals run unregistered pharmacies with no pharmacist to supervise dispensing and counselling of drug-related endeavour, contrary to the Poison and Pharmacy Act. The exploitation of patients who sometimes pay over 500 per cent more than the baseline cost of drugs through trickster maneuver is one of the planks of survival by private physicians in Nigeria.

“Even WHO studies confirm that the baseline price of drugs in private hospitals is about 193 per cent over what is obtainable in community pharmacies and 188 per cent over prevailing prices in public hospital pharmacies in Nigeria. If Nigeria were a saner clime, the likes of the registrar of MDCN will bury his face in shame for gross ineptitude and glaring incompetence he accused other regulatory bodies of.”

They added that private hospitals in Nigeria are the centers of unrestricted and unchecked creation of sub-professional cadres in healthcare, where auxiliary nurses, drug dispensing assistants and diagnostic assistants are trained and sometimes certified while the various private hospital registration authorities and the MDCN look away to protect their physician brothers.

“We submit that the FMoH has lost control in its oversight responsibility on MDAs it supervises. FMoH, which has become an annex of the NMA, will continue to inflict more serial damage to our health system except the presidency intervenes. It is a sad reality that even the prospects of a health sector reform program under the vice president, will have no impact because the reform agenda was skewed to be an agenda by and for ONLY physicians which makes it dead- on-arrival.” they lamented.

Similarly, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) lambasted Sanusi over his allegation that other Regulatory Agencies in the health sector are not alive to their responsibilities.

“As a public servant in such a revered position he is expected to be well groomed on the ethics of the public service. The ethics as contained in the public service rules requires an officer to display integrity, sincerity, honesty, transparency, and loyalty to the service amongst other priorities.

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“Except  MDCN has become an arm of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), then the registrar of MDCN must be appropriately brought to book by relevant authorities such as the governing council or even the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) or Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation (OHCSF).

“This would serve as deterrent to officers of the service. What has happened in the case of Sanusi is highly ridiculous. To put the record straight, PSN will want to inform the public that the Investigating Panel of the PCN has taken up more than sixty (60) pharmacists for various complaints in the past year whilst others have had their cases to the Disciplinary Tribunal.”

PSN reiterated its awareness that PCN National Enforcement Team had commenced its activities for year 2022, saying, “The team in Taraba State last week sealed 344 pharmaceutical facilities for various breaches of the regulations. We are not sure if MDCN had ever achieved such a feat since it was established despite obvious breaking of the law and ethics of those it regulated.”

They added that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and PCN were accessed by the Global Benchmarking Team of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for three years and were granted maturity level 3 ranking amongst other National Regulatory Authorities across the world, which signifies a stable, reliable, and integrated regulatory structure in place to support medicines regulations.

Similarly, PSN asserted that it was aware that PCN has been granted ISO: 2015 certification having met International Standard Organisation requirements, but was unaware of MDCN having achieved any such feat even by a Nigeria Institution.

“Medical doctors have been rustic, yet MDCN looked away at all unethical practices of her members involved in illegal training and certification of auxiliary nurses and Pharmacy assistants while those in government have wrecked the Drug Revolving Fund (DRF) making government hospitals to owe over twenty-two billion naira nationwide.” PSN.

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