Governments not doing enough to protect health personnel says WMA President

(02.05.2014)  A plea for health professionals and medical facilities to be protected in times of armed conflict has been made in Nigeria by Dr. Margaret Mungherera, President of the World Medical Association.

Speaking today (Friday) at the Nigerian Medical Association annual conference in Benin City, Edo, Dr. Mungherera referred to violence in Nigeria, Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere in the world, where physicians and other health professionals had been killed or injured in fighting and where hospitals and other health facilities had been destroyed.

‘In many countries experiencing armed conflict, health personnel have been injured or lost their lives. About 70 per cent of these are local health providers. The result is that patient access to health care is undermined, not only from the deaths and injuries but when health personnel migrate away from areas of conflict.

‘Governments around the world are simply not doing enough to protect medical personnel and facilities. They must ensure unobstructed access to medical treatment for the injured.'

Dr. Mungherera also made it clear that health professionals had a responsibility to protect patients' right to confidentiality, to do all they could to minimize harm and to make decisions that were in the best interest of their patients.

‘This is as equally important in times of peace as it is in situations of armed conflict and other emergencies', she said.

She hoped that draft regulations and guidelines drawn up by the International Committee of the Red Cross emphasized the need for protective measures to cover health training institutions. She wanted to see medical students among the groups specifically mentioned as requiring attention.

‘New ICRC guidelines will be important in ensuring safety for health personnel to allow them to fulfil their ethical obligations towards their patients. The WMA is encouraging all national medical associations to lobby their governments and others to implement these guidelines.

‘And the WMA will continue to speak out in support of medical associations in Turkey and elsewhere who are struggling for the right to exercise clinical independence and professional autonomy.'