Patients relocate to private hospitals as Resident Doctors begin nationwide strike
Posted by News Express | 1 April 2021 | 384 times
The resident doctors in Kogi, Kano, Edo and Bauchi State have joined their colleagues across the country to embark on the nationwide strike declared by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).
Speaking with Tribune Online in Lokoja on Thursday, the chairman of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Omakoji Oyigu said the strike is total.
Another member of the NARD, who spoke in confidence, said: “We have joined the strike as directed by our national secretariat. It’s total. The strike is on course in the state.”
Meanwhile, when Tribune Online visited the Federal Medical Center in Lokoja, nurses and other auxiliary staff in the hospital were seen at their duty posts.
A relative of one of the patients at the FMC Lokoja said they are compelled to move their patients from the FMC facility to the Specialists Hospital Lokoja because of the strike.
“I am afraid, we may have to look for a private hospital because of the influx of patients at the only Specialist Hospital in Lokoja.”
When contacted the Public Relations Officer (PRO), of FMC Lokoja, Abdullahi, said he was not competent to comment on the strike, saying that the resident doctors have their own channel of communication.
Patients relocate to private hospitals in Kano
In Kano State, patients in government hospitals are also moving to private hospitals by their relatives.
On a visit to some of these hospitals in the state capital including Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH), Murtala Specialist Hospital and Nasarawa Hospital, it was observed that some of the patients have moved out from their beds to private hospitals.
Speaking with Alhaji Gwarzo Yahaya, “I do not have any other option than to move my son from AKTH to a private hospital for proper care and attention due to the strike embarked upon by resident doctors.”
Also speaking in the same vein, Mr John James who was on admission over malaria said, “I had to discharge myself from the hospital because I do not want to die like a cockroach. I was admitted last week at Nasarawa Hospital.”
Hajiya Hawawu Ibrahim who was also admitted at Murtala Specialist Hospital told our correspondent that one of her relatives just came to move her out to a private hospital.
It was, however, gathered that some patients were still on admission in the hospitals as some medical personnel including nurses, midwives and doctors on attachment were providing skeletal services for minor health issues.
Medical services disrupted at UBTH
In Edo State, essential medical services at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) were also disrupted following the strike action by the doctors who are demanding improved condition of services.
Among other grievances, the doctors are kicking against the non-payment of house officers, their placement by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) and hazard allowance which stands at a meagre N5,000.
At the general practice clinic, scores of patients sat down waiting several hours for doctors to attend to them.
A patient who simply gave her name as Itohan said that said she was at the hospital as early as eight in the morning but left at midday when there was no doctor in sight to attend to her.
Persistent attempts to speak with the local chairman of ARD, Dr. Kelvin Etinosa proved abortive as he refused to pick several calls put to his mobile phone but a top member, Dr. Ibe Chukwuemeka insisted that the strike is total and won’t be called off until the federal government meets all their demands.
Dr. Chukwuemeka said: “The strike is total. We will not resume until the federal government meet all our demands of the improved condition of services.”
The Public Relations Officer of UBTH, Mr. Joshua Uwaila could not be reached as he also refused to answer several calls put to his mobile phone.
Our demands basic, not extraordinary ― Abuja doctors
ARD President in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter, Nnamdi Nd’ezuma said their demands are basic and not extraordinary.
Nd’ezuma said: “The demands are clear and I feel the government knows exactly what to do to be able to stop it.
“We are not asking for anything out of the ordinary. When you look at the demands, some have not been paid salaries from January especially the house officers.”
He lamented the meagre sum given as hazard allowance saying: “Then you have the hazard allowance, I have come down with COVID-19 and I was expected to use my N5,000 allowance to sort myself.
“These are issues when you compare with other medical practitioners from other countries to see how they are treated. Nobody is asking for something that is too much but just basic things,” he said.
He further asserted that a poor welfare package contributed to the issue of brain drain among Nigerian doctors.
“Every young doctor you talk to, even if he gets to the hospital, one in six out of them have the intention of leaving and why are they leaving?
“It means they have what it takes. The question is why are they leaving? and why are they leaving to those other countries. what is it that those other countries provide for them that we are not providing here? And I think it is a very simple thing,” he added.
He noted that most times, doctors are forced to call off strikes not because demands have been met but for sympathy for human lives.
“Some of the issues are ongoing. In fact, the meeting with the minister of labour ended about 12 midnight and we are waiting for the national body to know to what extent have these demands have been met and that will now give us a backdrop on the decision to take next.
“By the time people are getting ill, we call it off out of sympathy with the promise people will do something about it but we still have some unanswered questions,” he said.
Prior to the commencement of the strike on Thursday, NARD had earlier given the federal government a 60-day ultimatum to meet their demands which the federal government did not yield to.
Doctors, during a visit to Gwarimpa General Hospital and Wuse District Hospital in Abuja, were not attending to patients.
…compliance in Bauchi
In Bauchi, over 150 resident doctors who are members of NARD also joined the ongoing nationwide strike action.
The members who are working in ATBUTH, Bauchi and Federal Medical Centre in Azare were seen sitting in groups at the two hospitals in compliance with the directives of the national body.
While speaking to our correspondent, Branch Chairman of NARD in Bauchi, Dr Mohammed Nur Algazali, said that the branch has no option but to join the strike because according to him the struggle is for the benefit of all health workers saying that, “the situation is pathetic and unfortunate, but we just have to embark on the strike action to press home our demands.”
He added that: “Yes, we are complying with the directive of our national body for a total indefinite nationwide strike and all centres are to comply based on what is contained in the communique.”
Doctors divided in Kwara
Meanwhile in Kwara State, resident doctors in the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital (UITH), Ilorin are divided on the strike action said to have commenced on Thursday.
Tribune Online gathered that the strike action by the doctors are yet to have any impact on patients in the hospital, just as some doctors in the hospital said that they had resolved not to embark on strike after a meeting with management of the teaching hospital on Wednesday.
The medical expert, who said that the decision reached between the doctors and the management does not concern the national strike action.
However, the chairman of ARD in the teaching hospital, Dr. Badmus Habeeb, confirmed that the doctors have embarked on strike.
Speaking with Tribune Online, the chairman of the UITH branch of the Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Comrade Olawumi Olutunde, said that the strike action was yet to have any effect, adding that the strike would be felt from Friday when new patients come into the hospital.
“Of course, the strike would affect some services, because the doctors are the health experts really doing the work. The consultants are just there to supervise and they are not always around like the doctors. The people that are working are those on strike now. By the arrangements of the hospital, when patients come to the hospital, they first see doctors. It is the doctors that write on next services like laboratory, radiology etc. Those services are already paralyzed now.
“It doesn’t show immediately. It’s a gradual thing. If it lingers, starting from tomorrow, the impact would paralyze all other services. Though the normal thing is for consultants to take over in this situation, they are few in number and not always around. So, they might not be able to cope with the volume of work. All other health personnel, including drivers, are on the ground. We are rendering our services. Patients are in wards being taken care of by the nurses.”
All patients handed over to consultants in Sokoto
Chairman of the association in Sokoto State, Dr Sufiayanu Umar Yabo, said like any other chapter, residents doctors at Usmanu Danfodiyo Teaching Hospital (UDUTH) commenced the strike as directed by the national body.
He said his association had earlier submitted a strike notice of thirty days to the hospital management which was accepted and acknowledged accordingly.
“We have joined the strike as directed by our national body this morning and handed over all the patients on admission to the consultants.
“We have done all that is expected of us before we embarked on the strike by informing the management of the hospital in writing which was acknowledged by them.
“We hope the intervention of both the leadership of National Assembly and other stakeholders will resolve the issue in time to return normalcy to the hospital,” he added.
When Tribune Online visited the hospital on Thursday, consultants were seen attending to patients while some other patients were discussing how to move to a private hospital to seek medical attention.
A patient who spoke with our correspondent, Mal. Sani Mohammed said he will seek medical help at either a state government hospital or a private clinic.
He said even though medical consultants were at hand to attend to patients, they may be overwhelmed on daily basis.
Doctors in Ebonyi demand accreditation of hospitals
President of ARD at the Alex Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki(AE-FETHA), Dr. Anikpo Nnamdi, noted that there is the need to kick-start the placement of house officers to tertiary institutions across the country, advocating that the accreditation of hospitals be done to avoid further irregularities.
He said: “This year January 2021, it was agreed that doctors and the dental council should automatically take over the central placement of house officers in two tertiary institutions across the country.
“This brought a lot of irregularities because the issue was ill-planned, it was ill-timed. They didn’t have a blueprint on how they will proceed.
“The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria says they will be a quota system for every tertiary hospital for doctors and house officers that were supposed to be working there but the figures they gave is incorrect because they have not accredited some hospitals for quite a number of years.
“They said it is only 12 house officers that will be working in AE-FETHA that has over 700 beds and still has the capacity for more beds. For a hospital that has over 250 consultants and then when it is time for payment, they pay them according to quota and this has shown the high level of incompetence on the side of MDCN.”
Another issue he stated is the payment of hazard allowance as a number of doctors died during the pandemic.
He added there is “no death insurance for doctors as they barely get their next month salary depending on when they died. As Ebonyi State is concerned, we have lost a number of doctors to Lassa fever in the line of service and yet nothing to show for it.
“We need increment in our hazard allowance. We urge the federal government to implement the issues as a way of stopping professionals from leaving the country. There is the shortage of manpower across the whole health institutions in the country because the employment rate is so low and that has made people working to be overworking themselves.
“AE-FETHA over the years had 150-200 house officers because our hospital is a big hospital and here we are told that AE-FETHA quota is only 12 house officers.” (Nigerian Tribune)