Doctor Emmanuel Jonah is the Secretary of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Kogi State Chapter. In this interview with our correspondent in the state, Abdul Alli, he bears his mind on various health interventions initiated by the Yahaya Bello-led administration in respect of the 31st Anniversary Celebration of the state.
Kogi of recent celebrated her 31st Anniversary. Health Sector plays a critical role in the development of the society. Is there any reason to be happy about the sector?
Well I have been in the State for the past five to six years. So I can actually give an assessment and say there is a significant improvement over the years as far as the investment in the health sector is concerned. So as far as the remuneration and infrastructural investment in health sector is concerned, I mean ranging from where we came, we actually met the CONMESS 2009, and now we are on CONMESS 14 in the state.
The CONMESS is a salary scale for doctors all over the country. When we came, we met the old salary scale of CONMESS but recently, beginning from 2021 January, the new salary scale was implemented. In 2020 the Governor approved CONMESS 2014 and in January 2021, the salary scale took effect. Since then, the new salary scale has been implemented in Kogi State. That has actually brought a significant motivation to doctors as the wide merging salary gap was closed between the doctors employed by the state and the Federal Government.
I can tell you categorically that the gap has been significantly closed based on this new improved and approved CONMESS 2014 salary in the state. Again it is clear to everybody that the current administration has invested seriously on infrastructure in the health sector. You can see the new Reference Hospital in Okene, the other Zonal hospitals in Gegu-beki and other places as well as the renovation of specialist Hospital Lokoja.
For us in the health sector, we have been thankful for the investment in the sector. A lot of doctors have been recruited but with the massive infrastructure, we want to ask for more recruitment to man all these massive structures and investments in the sector. It is necessary to employ capable hands to care for equipments and make use of them. We are happy to say we have more structure more expansions.
Sir, there was a publication sometimes ago about the inadequate members of medical personnel across the state of the Federation. What is your take on this?
Well, the process of attracting more doctors and health workers in the state, to us in NMA, we believe the indicators are in the direction of progress. When you improve the remuneration of doctors, when you make the working environment conducive, when you build a habitable space for doctors to work, of course, people will gravitate and come towards that direction and we are beginning to see that in Kogi State.
I can tell you that in the last few months, a lot of doctors have shown interest to work in Kogi State. We got a lot of applications; we got a lot of people showing interest to work in the state. That is a fact. All the key windows of employment would testify to the numbers of people that are showing interest in working in the state. There are a lot of employments that have been happening in the state. We are hopeful that as we are able to sustain what we have and continue to improve on them, we would continue to get more people to come on ground.
On capital flight, sometimes ago, we heard of Saudi authority developing interest in health workers in Nigeria and a whole lot of people were ready to navigate. What do you think is responsible for this?
What is responsible for the movement of doctors and health workers out of the country is not farfetched. You have to look generally, holistically at what is happening. A lot of colleagues would say they are moving out of the country because of bumper packages that await them. Others would say they are moving because of the ‘alleged’ insecurities in the country. Some would also say they just want to move and change environment. Likewise there are those of the opinion that they want to go and meet their family members.
So the reason for movements is diversified. Some are going to school to improve their C.V. Some believe the resources out there are better than the ones here. So, there are different reasons why people move. It ranges from economic factors, security, personal, family, social and so forth.
With all these, would you say doctors are enough Sir?
…Cuts in; Of course not, doctors to patients ratio in Nigeria is not enough. However if you ask us where we are in Kogi before and where we are now, we would say we are improving. Ok? Are we there? No, but we are striving to get there as far as doctors / patients ratio is concerned. We are making progress. All the indicators on ground, for now show we are making progress. The reviewed salary structure that is attracting people now, the working environment is better; people are attracted to come here, so we would say we are moving closer and closer to the target. Though we are not yet there but there are progresses. We still need more doctors in the state to cover the gap of doctors/ patients ratio.
Assessing Governor Yahaya Bello, how would you once more rate his relationship with your professional body?
NMA is building a working relationship with the government and we are hoping that this relationship would continue to be productive and healthy. That is part of our aims and objectives and we hope that the Governor would continue to have an open door policy to NMA to continue to have access to them. We would always give our own advices, recommendations for a healthier State. Those are our targets and so far we are getting good responses and we hope for more working relationship to be sustained.
How important is the insurance scheme to the people of the state?
There is a need for a pool of fund as far as the health insurance is concerned, there is a need for all Kogites both formal and informal sector to key into the insurance scheme. “Bello Care” Is Good for All. The more you have money in the pool, the safer it is for the people of the society and the healthier the society would be. If we have a billion Naira in the pool, a lot of people can access health care services in the state almost at no cost. The insurance scheme is very very important. Private, formal and informal sector should key into it so that people can access health care service at no cost or at a cheaper rate. Well-meaning individuals in the society should enroll people for their benefits.