Many patients seeking healthcare services in different public-owned hospitals in Lagos were stranded on Monday as members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors, NARD made good their threat to embark on a nationwide industrial action. The medical doctors had recently in an official letter with reference number NARD/SG/2019-2020/070620/246 issued a 14- day ultimatum to the Federal Government for an indefinite strike in accordance with the resolution of the Ordinary General Meeting of the Association on the 29th of May 2020, Among the demands of the doctors include the provision of grossly inadequate appropriate Personal Protective Equipment, an immediate reversal of the illegal disengagement of all 26 resident doctors in Jos University Teaching Hospital and the payment of all salaries, keeping with provisions of the Medical Residency Training Act, etc,
The doctors had in the letter warned that no service of any kind, be it emergency, care at COVID-19 isolation, and treatment centres shall be exempted. When Vanguard visited yesterday, some of the public-owned hospitals in Lagos, although some doctors, especially consultants were seen offering skeletal services, the patients who turned up in large numbers were turned back due to the ongoing nationwide strike resident doctors. At the Federal Medical Centre Ebute-Metta, Lagos, many of the patients were disappointed as the hospital turned them back as the strike drastically affected the capacity of the hospital to provide health services. Findings by Vanguard revealed that the hospital was only able to render skeletal services at the Accident and Emergency departments of the health facility. Few of the patients that were attended to, was forced to register under emergency. Speaking with our correspondent at the FMC, Ebutte Metta, Mrs. Ayodeji Ibidunni who came from Ketu said came to the hospital-based on an appointment. “It is so sad that despite the increase in transportation we are experiencing there was no text message from the hospital to inform us that doctors were on strike. In the past, they used to send text messages to inform us. We don’t know why they let me waste my transport money,” she said. From the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, and Federal Medical Centre, Ebute Metta, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, the situation was the same. Patients were left unattended. Only a few consultants and some managerial health workers were seen attending to patients. Another patient who identified herself as Mrs. Ebun Odediran said that she was told to stay back till around 3 pm as negotiation was still ongoing between the management and the striking doctors. “I am pregnant and I need the services of a gynecologist. One of the nurses told me to stay back, is like negotiation is ongoing between the management and the doctors.” She said Reacting to the development, President, ARD- Federal Medical Centre, Ebutte Metta, Dr. Ayo Sowade said their members were complying with the national directive to embark on strike. “Our members are in three different departments in this hospital and we have joined the nationwide strike called by the national body of our association. We are not ready to render any skeletal services; we are complying fully with the strike until we hear any further instruction from the national body.” Also speaking, ARD President at LASUTH, Dr. Oaku Itohan who noted that NARD had given two weeks ultimatum to the government at all levels before the commencement of the strike said: NARD has excluded doctors at the Covid-19 treatment centres for the period of two weeks. “For us at LASUTH-ARD, our concerns are numerous. First, we want our safety and welfare of our families guaranteed. The COVID-19 hazard allowance, life insurance, compensation plans, as well as, adequate provision of PPEs will go a long way in ensuring this need is met. But regrettable, as it stands today, we don’t have any such agreement with the Lagos State government.”
She called for the amelioration of the gross salary disparity amongst doctors in Tertiary Health Institutions: between federal and states, adding that, it was very demoralising for doctors in LASUTH and has led to lots of brain drain, further worsening the acute shortage of doctors in the country. “During this Covid-19 pandemic, our doctors were stranded due to the initial lockdown because they had to come from afar and no means to commute. The lack of quarters for resident doctors also hampers service delivery to the masses. The nature of strike in LASUTH, according to NARD’s resolution, is a total and indefinite one, pending when our minimum demands are met. Others are; universal Implementation of the Medical Residency Training Act in all federal and state hospitals and ensuring pay parity among doctors of the equal cadre, immediate implementation of the revised hazard allowance and payment of the COVID-19 inducement allowance as agreed with by the Federal Government and healthcare workers, provision of funding for Medical Residency Training in the 2021 Appropriation bill. Payment of all arrears owed by federal and states tertiary health institutions and stoppage and immediate refund of all illegal, unjust, and callous cut in salaries of our members by Kaduna State and other state governments.