Patients evacuated as strike cripples hospitals

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At the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) in Ikeja, there was full compliance as doctors shunned their duty posts, leaving many patients stranded.

Similar scenarios played out in other state-owned hospitals, as doctors in the employ of Lagos State heeded the Guild’s directive.

Although doctors on COVID-19 assignment were exempted from the strike, all the 26 general hospitals and 256 public healthcare centres owned by the state were inactive.

At a briefing to announce the warning strike, chairman of the Guild, Dr. Oluwajimi Sodipo, said it was resolved at an emergency congress held on June 27 to extend the previous 21-day ultimatum given to the state government by two more weeks.

He listed some of the unresolved demands to include wage disparity between the doctors employed by the federal and the Lagos State and the failure to pay them COVID-19 hazard and inducement allowances, among others.

Dr Sodipo said: “Doctors working in COVID-19 isolation centres are still being owed two months salaries. They are also being unceremoniously disengaged without recourse to their welfare.

“The issue of our members being infected and re-infected daily is not getting the required attention from the government.

“The issue of shortage of doctors in the health facilities is yet to be resolved and there is no visible substantive action taken by the government to resolve the issue.”

Doctors in Ekiti vowed not to call off their strike until the government met their welfare demands.

The state chapter of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) said the strike was necessary and should not be misconstrued, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The association, in a statement issued by its Chairman, Dr Tunji Omotayo, said the strike was necessitated by the poor welfare condition of the doctors.

Doctors working with the state Health Management Board (HMB), covering three specialist hospitals, 19 general hospitals and primary healthcare facilities, had, about two weeks ago, withdrawn their services over alleged wage disparity and unpaid allowances, among other matters.

The doctors were operating under the aegis of National Association of Government General Medical and Dental Practitioners (NAGGMD),

Omotayo said his members decided to embark on the strike after exhausting the 28-day ultimatum issued to the government without getting positive response from the state on their demands.

The NMA chairman said: “The implication of failure to implement skipping allowance is that doctors will only endure the hostile working conditions government’s job until they can secure more attractive jobs elsewhere.

“This is why the number of doctors under the employment of HMB will continue to reduce.

“Just like skipping, only the doctors in the employment of HMB are not being paid hazard allowance. Unlike other doctors all over the country, this has not been paid to the doctors in the last 10 years.

“For over 10 years, doctors have endured 50 per cent implementation of rural posting allowance, despite assurances to regularise it within six months.”

He also complained about a heavy workload.

“HMB is responsible for the management of the hospitals and has about 70 doctors to run the 22 specialist and general hospitals. This means that an average of three doctors per hospital, with some of the hospitals having only one doctor each.

“The three specialist hospitals had 15 consultants, but are now left with just five. In the primary healthcare sector, there are only 12 doctors, leaving some local government areas without clinical cover for their primary healthcare facilities,” he Omotayo said.

Ekiti Commissioner for Health, Dr Mojisola Yahaya-Kolade, denied that Governor Kayode Fayemi was not responsive to doctors demands.

She said the government was in talks with leaders of the striking doctors, adding that negotiations would be guided by economic realities.

The commissioner expressed optimism that both the government and the striking doctors would agree on a better template that would be mutually beneficial.

“It’s not that the government isn’t ready to listen to them but the timing is of importance. This is the time most governments are spending quite a lot of money on the pandemic.

“I can confirm to you that negotiation is ongoing. I assure that workers will get the best deal,” she said.

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