Prof. Sadiq Wali, former Chairman, Governing Council, University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, has advocated the appointment of a Surgeon-General of the Federation to insulate the health sector from policy inconsistencies.
Wali told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday that the nation could do with the services of a surgeon-general which was long overdue in a democratic system of government.
He added that the office of a surgeon-general was distinct from that of the minister or permanent secretary in the health ministry.
“I think there is need for it. There is so much change in the ministry (of health). There is one in the United States of America.
“The work is different from that of the minister. As surgeon-general, you look at the whole health sector and try and evolve certain policies and strategies that the government needs to achieve some objectives.
“As a minister you are more or less dealing with day-to-day problems of the hospital. A surgeon-general may say ‘okay the question of cigarette smoking, it has to be tackled`. And he is there to develop the strategies to fight cigarette smoking.
“And again, he may find that our people are getting too fat and he may discover that it is mainly because they are eating junk food and come out with policies and strategies to fight junk foods or soft drinks.
“These are too technical things for the normal, usual things in the ministry.“
NAN reports that one of the demands of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) in its agitation for improved healthcare delivery in the country is the appointment of a surgeon-general for the country.
Wali expressed concern over the unending crises rocking the health sector following disagreements between the various health workers’ unions and their employers.
He said that the nation stood to benefit much more if the Federal Government were to establish an Office of the Surgeon-General of the Federation soon.
According to Wali, developed societies such as the United States of America have a surgeon-general overseeing the health sector in the country.
He also stressed the need for the recently launched Universal Health Coverage to be duly implemented so that ordinary Nigerians would have access to free medical services.
“For a long time we have been advocating that there should be universal health coverage when we were medical students.
“Many countries like China and England in particular established the universal coverage for everybody and that is what it should be.
“But Nigeria started mainly with public officers and private doctors want to do it. Now, maybe it is a trial.
“But, I feel that in the long-term every Nigerian should be entitled to free medical care. National Health Insurance Scheme is mainly restricted to public officers or some private officers.
“It is not taking care of the vast majority of Nigerians although now they are trying to expand it to say that `you have your communities you can also start it’ .
“But I think the ideal one is the universal one so that the government has taken a bold step. All Nigerians will be entitled free medical care and that is the right one.“
Wali, who is a former Chief Medical Director of Malam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, appealed to government at all levels to improve the healthcare delivery services in the country.
He emphasised that doing so would stop the increasing rate of travels abroad by the elite for medical attention.
He also said the Medical and Dental Council needed to be reconstituted on a regular basis to deal with the numerous cases of unethical practices among medical doctors in the country.
Wali, a personal physician to the late Gen. Sani Abacha, noted that since the reconstitution of the council, several cases of professional misconduct had been dispensed with and the culprits sanctioned.
“The problem with Medical and Dental Council is that it was established and the board was dissolved after a few years and the council was not (in existence) for many years.
“Several doctors have been in court and one of them has been suspended; so if the council is left to remain and people report the cases, the council will look into such cases,“ he stated.