I came across an article published in an online platform (nigerianmedicals.com) on May 9, 2018. Ordinarily I should have allowed the NMA to respond to the issues labelled against It but for the falsehood and propaganda peddled intentionally to deceive unsuspecting public, I decided to clarify some misconceptions especially those that has to do with professional practice and educational qualification.
The writer attempted mischievously to equate their Doctor of Optometry degree with MBBS degree on the basis of course duration as he stated in his write up “let us put this in perspective, the doctors of optometry spend the same number of years (6 Years) in training as the medical practitioners and used to have the same scale in conformity with established parity (among the medical doctors/Veterinary Doctors and Optometrist with O.D.)”
This statement is not only misleading but also delusional. What the secretary failed to state to the general public is whether optometrists and doctors have similar job descriptions and responsibilities in the hospital despite spending same duration in the university. He needs to inform the general public about their job schedules apart from vision testing and dispensing spectacles? What life-saving procedures do they perform ? What emergency cases do they attend to? And how many working-hours do they spend in the hospital?
Furthermore, a person should know that there was no time in Nigeria when salary of an optometrist is at par with that of a medical doctor except May be he was referring to a situation where Optometrists pretend as medical doctors, on the basis of their title “Dr” prefixed to their names to claim the entitlement and privilege of a medical doctor in a dubious manner especially in rural areas.The secretary needs to be educated that MBBS is a super degree and it’s a constellation of many degrees melted together.It is Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery. That is why somebody with MBBS can do Masters degree in virtually all the basic clinical sciences including pharmacology and public health. Additionally, MBBS degree was recently included in the Guinness Book of Record as the most difficult course in the world. I challenge the secretary to tell us the position of Doctor of Optometry degree in the hierarchy of difficult courses.
The issue of duration of course (on the basis of which he equated MBBS with O.D.) further exposed his lack of knowledge of his profession as it being practiced globally. Optometry is a B.Sc. degree in most countries. For example in India, there are over 50 colleges that offer B.Sc. Optometry and the course duration is 4 years in all the institutions. Furthermore, Optometry in UK is offered as BSc (Hons) in three years duration and a graduate of such Programme is called Ophthalmic optician . In Italy, optometry is not registered as an independent profession but rather considered as part of ophthalmology practice. In Bangladesh, Optometry is being ran as a diploma course in teaching hospitals not even in university.
Although in few countries like US and Canada, Optometry is being offered as Doctor of optometry (O.D) and at same duration as MBBS, the remuneration and career progression are not the same as he erroneously claimed. According to the US bureau of labour statistics(BLS),the salary of an optometrist is USD 107,729 while that of a physician is USD 183, 743 per annum. In Nigeria, according to the laws establishing Optometric practice, the qualifications needed for registration as optometrist in Nigeria are diploma in Optometry, BSc. Optometry or Doctor of Optometry. This shows lack of uniformity in the qualification of optometrists.
On professional autonomy, NOA through this individual disputed the position of MDCAN” that every professional with right qualification can appoint himself/ herself as a consultant but not in hospital setting” At this point, I challenge the secretary to inform the general public what their new responsibilities are going to be if they are appointed as consultants in hospital setting. They should also name the countries in the world where optometrists are being appointed as consultants. There is nothing that demonstrated the secretary’s shallow understanding of medical care than his statement that “medical care of a patient in or outside hospital setting involves the triad of diagnosis, advice and treatment “I am sure even medical students reading this article will be laughing at this deficient statement. Still on professional autonomy, he said, “NMA continues to arrogantly refer to other health care as pretending professionally or publically, to have skills, knowledge or qualification they do not possess” I think the NOA are actually feeling guilty here because they are the ones that commonly establish private practice and parade themselves as eye doctors (ophthalmologist) to defraud ordinary citizens of their hard earning.
In organized society, when optometrists use the title ”Dr” in their name, they usually follow it with optometrist in bracket at the end of the names e.g. Dr Joseph Isa (Optometrist). This is to avoid deceiving general public into believing that they are physicians. Do our Nigerian optometrists do the same?
The Secretary further accused NMA of opposing anything good coming their way ” What else but greed and witchcraft could make anyone maliciously obstruct anything good that is coming the way of his neighbor, even when it does not reduce his own lot or change his status” he said. This statement is nothing but a testimony of egomania of NOA. They demonstrated that they are only concerned about pecuniary advantage not minding the consequences of their demands on the health sector at large and the patients in particular. Their craves for being appointed as consultant is all about specialist allowance not for provision of quality care.
I know many people do not know the difference between ophthalmologist, optometrist and optician as well as their role in the realm of medical practice. Ophthalmologists are medical doctors who specialize in eye and vision care. It takes between 5 to 6 years of postgraduate training to become ophthalmologist after undergraduate training of 6 plus years and they are licensed to provide medical and surgical care of opthalmic patients. They occupy the highest position in pyramid of eye care. Optometrist ,on the other hand,are health care professionals that deal with primary vision care and they dispense spectacles.They usually spend 4 to 6 years in university to be qualified as optometrist. Opticians are technicians that specialize in fitting and dispensing spectacles and contact lens.
The issue of optometrists in Nigerian health sector is a quintessential example of the confusion that could be generated when international best practice is jettisoned and professionals start to crisscross. Imagine the chaos and pandemonium that will be brought into the hospital setting if pharmacists, nurses, medical laboratory scientists, physiotherists etc. are to be allowed to use the title “Dr” in Nigerian health system. This is what NMA is trying to prevent.
The secretary should desist from misinforming the general public and needs to understand that every body in the hospital works to help a doctor. The same scenario is found in the military where everybody works to help infantry officers.
The Author is Dr Abdullahi Sadiq Mohammed is a Eye surgeon and Glaucoma Specialist who currently works at the National Eye Centre Kaduna, Nigeria (firstname.lastname@example.org)