From Fred Ezeh, Abuja and Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
As the nationwide strike embarked upon by medical doctors under the umbrella of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) begins, patients in government-owned hospitals across Nigeria are writhing in agony. The strike begun midnight of April 1.
“There should be a permanent solution to this unending strike by medical doctors. It’s unexpected that these set of people rendering essential services should abandon hospitals where the common man in the society get medical services because of arrears of salary and other entitlements,” Rebecca Onah, a patient on admission at Wuse General Hospital, Abuja, wailed last night.
Khadijat Bello, a patient at Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi, Abuja, said the industrial action would have negative impact on her health which, she said, was beginning to be better. She appealed to the Federal Government to attend to the needs of the doctors so they could return to the hospitals as soon as possible to save lives.
Another patient, Kelechi Emeri, expressed sympathy for caregivers who could not afford the services of a private hospital services, with fear that many lives may be lost before the strike.
He said: “I moved my brother to a private hospital in Apo from Maitama General Hospital immediately when I got a hint of the proposed strike. It cost me a fortune. I did that because I could afford it. What of those that could not afford it? They are left to their fate. It’s shameful that doctors have embarked on nationwide strike while the president jetted out to London for what they termed routine medical checkup. Our political leaders should fix the health care system for the benefit of the rich and the poor.”
Meanwhile, the NARD President, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, could not be reached as he was said to be in a meeting with the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, as at press time. However, he confirmed to Daily Sun last weekend that doctors decided to withdraw their professional services to register their discontent with certain treatments being received from the government.
Though, he admitted that the industrial action would affect smooth delivery of health care services across government-owned hospitals, he apologised to Nigerians and solicited their understanding and support in the fight for betterment of the health care system.
Dr. Okhuaihesuyi confirmed that as at the beginning of the week, state chapters of ARD were directed to withdraw their services effective midnight April 1 until their demands were met.
“Compliance level from across the states is expected to be impressive. Our services would continue to be absent in the hospitals until our demands are fully met. Enough of promises which has left our members suffering unexpected hardship,” said Dr. Uyilawa.
He confirmed that the decision to embark on the industrial action was taken at the extra ordinary National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Association that ended in at the weekend.
He said the decision was to compel the government to attend to their needs which have long been delayed.
He said NEC-in-session bemoaned the suffering of some NARD members in GIFMIS platform who have not been paid salaries for four months now due to delay in biometric capturing by IPPIS department. He said the NEC also lamented the inhumane treatment being meted on their members in some state tertiary institutions like ABSUTH who were being owed 24 months salaries, IMSUTH, five months and UNIMEDTH three months.
He said the only way to end the strike was to effect immediate payment of all salaries owed all house officers including March salaries, regardless of quota system.
“We also demanded the reintroduction of medical super salary structure and specialist allowance for all Doctors as already approved for some other health workers. This will go a long way in ensuring peace in the health sector.”
As at press time last night, relatives were sighted evacuating their sick ones to private hospitals for continuation of treatment across the country.
Meanwhile, following water scarcity that hit the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, in the past few days, medical doctors in the teaching hospital have suspended surgical operations until further notice.
This was made known by some doctors, yesterday.
A visit to the toilet facilities in the hospital revealed that water has not been running there for the past few days. But big buckets filled with water were seen in some of the toilets.
Some patients in the hospital said they had been buying bags of sachet water to bathe and flush the toilets
Public Relations Officer of the hospital, Mr. Toye Akinrinlola said water scarcity was caused by ongoing renovation in the hospital expected to be completed within the next three weeks.
“We are replacing the sewage system, and that is why we have to shut down some facilities.
“When such renovation is ongoing, we have to shut down five blocks. We do not admit patients, except for a few critical cases. The renovation is to be completed in three weeks.
“The issue of water scarcity that came up this morning is very strange to me. We have shut down our water plant and we cannot bring water from outside because we have our own water treatment plant. The best is for our patients to be patient with us,” he said.