Geoffrey Anyanwu, Awka
Resident doctors of the Anambra State-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital (COOUTH), Awka, yesterday, commenced an indefinite strike.
The strike, according to the doctors, was the last resort to drive home their demand for resolution of issues of “no condition of service, poor remuneration and non-diagnostic equipment” in the hospital, among others.
President of the Association of Resident Doctors of COOUTH, Dr. Obinna Aniagboso, said the strike became inevitable following failure of the state government to honour the agreement it signed with the association on January 17, 2019, during their warning strike.
But Governor Willie Obiano, who it was gathered, was not aware of the threats of the doctors to go on strike, yesterday, requested and scheduled a meeting with the executive of the association.
Confirming the governor’s position shortly after meeting with executive of the association at the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) state secretariat, Awka, Commissioner for Health, Dr. Josephat Akabuike said: “They had earlier given a warning that they will go on strike based on issues surrounding their salary. They want salary increment, condition of service and few other things they requested, which the governor set up a committee to look into.
“We’ve held several meetings with them and we agreed that what they are requesting for is genuine and government is disposed towards doing it because government wants to address the issue of the salary and minimum wage holistically. But, we are surprised this morning to hear they have embarked on strike.
“So, we have communicated to the governor who will actually address them. There is actually no big issues because there is no contention, what is important is that they are expediting government action, which government has to be fully prepared to do. So, it is good the governor will address them this evening (last night) and we are assured the issue will be resolved because this government has been workers-friendly and we never had any issue of industrial action in the past five years of this administration.”
On the meeting, Aniagboso said: “We are happy the commissioner is here this afternoon and we had a fruitful discussion, His Excellency has also reached out to us and a meeting has been scheduled, so, we are very hopeful that we will work together to have a speedy resolution. For the strike, it is still on for now.”
He added: “The resident doctors alleged that instead of resolving the issues at hand, the management made arrangements to hire doctors they would pay N15,000 daily to work if they down tools.
“We recall that an agreement was signed with the state government that by April 2019, the following policies would be implemented in the hospital: Provision of adequate infrastructure that would improve clinical and diagnostic proficiency for improved patient’s care and specialist training.
“Completion and adoption of staff condition of service, including granting of in-service training to qualified medical officers and placement of staff in the appropriate salary scale with implementation of full welfare package as obtainable in other tertiary institutions.
“The dearth of modern equipment and diagnostic facilities have been impeding efficient health care delivery, hampering residency training, research and academic progress and thus posing a serious blow to patients’ treatment and production of needed specialist manpower.
“It is on record that health workers in the hospital earn the least in the country, if not in the whole of West Africa. It is also no news that doctors here earn below 50 per cent of their actual entitlement compared to their counterparts elsewhere.”