The Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) wishes to once again draw the attention of Your Excellency to the spate of unwholesome strike by health workers in Nigeria with the consequent fallout of avoidable morbidity and mortality.
At the root of these avoidable strikes is the desire for benefit packages and privileges for all concerned. These clamours from all sides of the divide appear to have been grossly mismanaged by government at all levels over the years.
Your Excellency, it is important to draw you memory lane that contrary to the superiority mentality created in some quarters, pharmacists and doctors entered the public service on the same grade level up till 1991. In Nigeria, pharmacists started on GL 08 step 2, while doctors entered on GL 08 step 3 because of the one year difference in the duration of training. After the mandatory one year youth service, pharmacists proceeded to GL 09 step 2 and doctor GL 09 step 3. This was the pattern till the Olikoye-Kuti leadership in the Federal Ministry of Health got the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida to approve the Medical Salary Scale (MSS), a discriminatory salary wage in favour of medical doctors in public service.
The MSS obviously disrupted the equilibrium of public sector wages as it became the basis for other sectoral players request for exclusive wages in the health sector after the MSS was introduced, the Health Salary Scale was introduced for health workers apart from doctors.
In 2009, the government of Late President Umaru Yar’Adua adopted on the prompting of the Federal Ministry of Health new salary scales for the health sector. A CONMESS scale was approved for medical doctors, while CONHESS was the scale of choice for health workers including the rank and file of all health professionals.
The fundamental spirit of the adoption of CONMESS and CONHESS scale in 2009 was to ensure parity in the two scales at all times.
Your Excellency, it is extremely important we put on record at this junction, that after the tinkering of hitherto existing public sector wage structure in 1991, the salaries of pharmacists and doctors was distorted significantly, such that doctors began to enjoy an extremely significant difference in wages with at least one full grade level difference without any change in the duration of training which remains five (5) years for pharmacists and six (6) years for doctors. From an initial difference of N7.00 monthly or N84.00 per annum prior to 1991, the difference in entry point for these two personnel now runs into about N500,000 per annum.
Despite this scenario, pharmacists and other health workers on the CONHESS scale took things with physiological calmness until more provocative incremental adjustments were awarded doctors first in January 2014 and then in September 2017. On both occasions the enabling circulars to legitimise the increases for doctors took only 14 days.
Pharmacists and other health personnel have been agitating for adjustment in the spirit of parity on both scales which was entrenched in the spirit of the 2009 MOU with the Federal Ministry of Health. This led to a strike of health workers in 2014 and 2017. In 2017 under the aegis of JOHESU/AHPA, the Federal Government signed a five term settlement agreement on September 30, 2017 to resolve the September 2017 strike of health workers.
The agreement was to be actualised within five (5) weeks with circulars effective September 30, 2017. It is sad to notify Your Excellency almost seven months after the agreement with the Federal Government, nothing has evolved from legitimate agreements with government at the highest level.
For the records, the agreements with the Federal Government were for circulars to be issued in appropriate areas with regards to the reflected as follows:
1.Adjustment of CONHESS Scale as was Done With CONMESS to Ensure Parity:
It is noteworthy that this step only ensures EQUITY & NOT EQUALITY in wages of health professionals and doctors.
2.Payment of Specialist Allowances to Deserving Health Professionals:
Your Excellency, pharmacists in particular have been short-changed in this regards. As far back as 1997 (21 years ago), pharmacists who trained as consultants at the West African Postgraduate College of Pharmacists (WAPCP) have not been recognised by the Federal Government. Only the Niger State Government has recognised this cadre in Nigeria despite the fact that the National Council on Establishment approved the consultancy cadre in 2010 for pharmacists. The Federal Ministry of Health in 2010 and 2015 endorsed this cadre for pharmacists, but strangely the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation has not issued a circular because another group of employees in the health sector is opposed to the designation of health professionals apart from doctors as consultants.
3.Payment of Arrears of the Skipping of CONHESS 10:
In a landmark ruling, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) conceded this privilege to health professionals including pharmacists, but eight years after, many of the managements of the Federal Health Institutions have refused to pay these arrears to our members.
4.Increase of Age of Health Workers from 60 to 65 Years:
The request is based on the expertise of health workers which is peculiar and unique at a time skills and competences continue to wane in the landscape. This protects the health system ultimately.
5.Review of the Composition of the Boards of Federal Health Institutions (FHIs):
The lopsided composition of the board of federal health institutions which is yet another creation of the military administration of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida vis decree 10 of 1985. This statute ensures that at least eight (8) out of thirteen (13) board members of Federal Health Institutions belong to only one profession. The 2017/2018 composition in fact remains an embarrassment, as no single nominee of the PSN was picked as member on any of the fifty five (55) Federal Health Institutions to represent other health professionals as provided for in law.
1.Your Excellency, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria demands that the enabling circular to adjust the CONHESS scale like was done with CONMESS in 2014 and 2017 be issued immediately as agreed.
2.In similar spirit, we request Your Excellency would direct the issuance of the circular that legitimises the consultancy cadre for pharmacists in public service as approved by the National Council on Establishment.
3.Your Excellency, we strongly recommend that to stem the tide of industrial disharmony in the public service, the Federal Government must restructure the wage pattern to fit into one universal scale which gives preferential entry point to those who have longer duration of training to enable them enter at higher steps on the Universal Salary Scale as a permanent intervention.
Your Excellency, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria has always been matured and peaceful in its agitations. This has made us very vulnerable to exploitation by some stakeholders. In the current dispensation we demand justice and equity for all concerned without further delay in the interest of consumers of health in our country.
Thank you very much Your Excellency,
FOR: PHARMACEUTICAL SOCIETY OF NIGERIA
PHARM. AHMED I. YAKASAI,FPSN, FPCPharm, FNAPharm, FNM