Pharmacist Mike Omotosho is the Chief Oversight officer at the Sustainable Healthcare Initiative, a non-governmental organization based in Abuja. In this interview with Peoples Daily’s Health Correspondent, Doyin Ojosipe, Omotosho, opened up on the internal political wrangling bedevilling the system. Excerpts:
How do you see Nigeria’s health sector that is currently enmeshed in perpetual crises?
I see a situation where everybody would sit around the table and say ok, we have the patient as the central point, how do we all contribute to make patient care a lot better? Instead, we are fighting ourselves over who is in charge of health and care. It is totally depressing.
The situation we are in right now is the same situation where our fellow countries were several years; where each health professional held on to what they believed they should be doing.
People have moved far beyond disciplinary health care. Right now, most countries are deploying what I call inter-disciplinary health care; where the various disciplines are there, they are recognized, you come to the table with your expertise and the other person comes with his expertise and I come with mine, and we all sit together and say how do we make the patient a lot better? This is because it is all about the patient, the way a salesman will tell you that costumer is the king. In health care sector, patient is king. It is not about me as a pharmacist or you as a doctor or her as a nurse; or even the lab scientist. Everybody is respected; everybody comes to the table with something. But, the focus is the patient. I wish our colleagues will understand this central point and then come to the table.
Strike has been a tool for flaunting professional might in the health sector, what do you think government should do to bring peace to the sector?
First and foremost, I think that all warring parties must be brought to the table; as a pharmacist for instance, I have a whole lot of respect for medical doctors by virtue of their training, by virtue of the duration they spend and even by virtue of the relevance when it comes to patients’ care. They are the natural leaders. But, don’t forget that leadership starts by being a follower. You can’t lead when there is nobody following. And, these days, it is beginning to change. People understand that the definition of the patient’s illness determines who takes the lead in the patient care. Yes, they (doctors) are natural leaders, then, it doesn’t mean you’ve got to lead all the time. At times, the kind of ailment will determine who should take the lead.
So, let everybody come back to the table and say ok, we are all working together and you cannot lead outside the team. You cannot lead without a follower; and that is very important. I think everybody should come to the table and understand that the patient is the most important part. There is no point fighting for relevance and the patients are dying on a daily basis. You’ve sworn oath to protect their lives to the best of your ability. You now because of relevance on the table of who leads want to determine the growth pattern of other health care partners within the team while the patients die. I think there is anomaly, I can’t just understand that. I think everybody should come to the table, we should begin to encourage team work, and we should begin to practice inter-professional approach like I said. I was giving you the graduation, you have your separate discipline like the doctors would have, pharmacists, medical lab scientists and nurses, you have your discipline, I agree. But it doesn’t work well when you begin to tell government this is what I do, no! Overtime, we come together, and then, it becomes a multi-disciplinary approach. When you are doing yours, the nurse is doing his, everybody is doing it but in the same set up.
But, if they do not communicate with each other, then, it is still multidisciplinary.
The interrelationship between them is what makes it interdisciplinary. First, there has to be that coordination where you define the role for everybody. Everybody knows their roles. I don’t have to overstep my boundary. The emphasis here is not about who leads; it is about the patient who is king. So, when we define the roles, then, we will get to communicate. After communicating with each other, it now becomes easier to have a shared responsibility with the patient. Please, get me right, I am not talking about sharing our responsibility, no, but, there must be a shared responsibility towards the patients. Pharmacist knows he’s got to ensure the patient is ok; doctor knows too that he’s got to ensure the patient is ok. If there is no coordination, there is no effective communication, then, there is no way they can have that shared responsibility to ensure that the patient is ok, which should be a central focus. My call will be that everybody come together and let’s begin to practice well. It is not late.
Are you saying the strike embarked upon by the doctors is not justified?
Yes, it is not justified. There is no amount of logical argument that will justify the loss of life of a patient. That is what I am saying. Irrespective of what those 24 demands by the doctors are, no, and I will tell you something. Your candle will not be brighter by putting off my own candle. But, if you have me light my candle and you light your own, the room becomes brighter. We must all work together. So, there is no justification, no moral justification to lose the thousands that have died during the strike.
Can multi-disciplinary approach work in the Teaching Hospitals, which is one of the issues in contention?
That is exactly the point I am making. Like I said, the medical doctors by the virtue of all of those are the natural leaders. But, we need to understand that it is not about who leads, it is about the patients. I tell you, this can work everywhere because the doctors will come in, the nurses will come in there because the teaching hospitals are not there for doctors alone. It is for everybody. You have pharmacists that actually go to teach doctors, they teach them
pharmacology. You have doctors that come to teach pharmacy too.
We even have nurses that go to teach doctors as the case may be. It is about what you have that you want to impact on the other person.
The assertion that it is only the person that is teaching somebody that is relevant doesn’t work all the time. Haven’t you heard of a case of the students even becoming more relevant that the teachers?
That is even if it is true that it is doctor that is teaching everybody. Let’s not join issues with irrelevance. Let’s concentrate on the point itself. Once everybody begins to understand the importance of coming together as a team, I come with my professional expertise at the table, the patient is central. You notice I have been repeating this because that is the message. The patient is the central point; I come with my own core skills as a pharmacist. You come with your core skill as a doctor. You come with your core skills as a radiologist. Everybody has a role to play. It is the patient that matters.