Abia State: Doctors without wages — THISDAY Editorial

Posted by News Express | 22 January 2023 | 340 times

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A tragic misfortune has struck the Abia State public healthcare system. Last week, throngs of medical doctors marched to the Governor’s Lodge in Umuahia to protest over upwards of 25 months of unpaid salaries and allowances. The doctors have threatened that if their demands are not quickly met, they will return to Government House with corpses of their members now dying in large numbers because of avoidable hardship and poverty. That matters should come to this extreme indicates the level of frustration in the state healthcare system. The sight of numerous doctors on a picket line over months of unpaid wages can demoralise the populace even in the best of places. Worse still, when the barricade of doctors moves to the entrance gate of a governor’s lodge, it is a signal that desperate times have indeed arrived.

Unfortunately, the health sector is not alone in the serial neglect of the state government. Both Abia State Polytechnic at Aba and the Abia State University at Okigwe are in a similar situation. This is not to talk of the unspeakable plight of teachers in public primary and secondary schools as well as local government employees whose federal funds are reportedly hijacked by the state administration. The story is the same with pensioners. Many have since died after waiting endlessly for their pensions and gratuities.

Unfortunately, what is happening in Abia is symptomatic of the situation in most of the 36 states in Nigeria where public institutions have practically been run down. We are only zeroing in on the state because of the critical nature of the sector involved in this tragic drama. In a state public healthcare system, doctors and other critical care givers are the arbiters between the life and death of the populace on behalf of the political leadership. To ignore the livelihood of doctors is to erode the basic compassion of the state and its managers.

 The plight of medical doctors which is in the present spotlight remains tragic. The 25-month default in the payment of salaries indicates a disturbing lack of sensitivity on the part of the state government. But as it turns out, serial default in doctors’ salary payments is only a small part of the general dysfunction in the Abia State public healthcare system. Widespread dire and perennial scarcity of drugs and other essential supplies in the entire healthcare system of the state has become axiomatic. Many of the institutions are dilapidated and unmaintained.

The hope for life in situations of ill health is embodied in satisfied doctors and other health professionals when they are up and about their business. The confidence in their carriage, the bounce in their steps and the overall contentment on their faces can sometimes restore hope to the afflicted and infirm. Even when the inevitability of death stares us in the face, the reassurances of confident doctors or smiling nurses can become the last signals that hope is possible, and that life can be saved.

It is a different matter when doctors as ultimate care givers in a hospital system are hungry, deprived and are going for months on end with neither salaries nor allowances. When those hired to support life become themselves harbingers of death and embodiments of frustration, life becomes precarious for the ordinary citizen whose confidence in government withers. Besides, hope in the prospect of surviving ill health diminishes when core health professionals become objects of pity, embodiments of want and images of a death foretold.

On this matter alone, the social contract which binds government, and the people can well be said to have collapsed in Abia State as it has in a few of our badly run states. The possibility that the current state administration can meaningfully tackle the looming disaster is worsened by the proximity of its exit. Yet, the responsibility of government does not expire because an administration is on its way out. Government obligations to the citizenry are perpetual and infinite. This is the bounding reason why a responsible effort should be made to end the embarrassment of the unpaid salaries of doctors in Abia State public healthcare system. (Sunday Tribune)

Source: News Express

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