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Govt hospitals grounded as resident doctors begin strike


•Patients stranded, trainee doctors, nurses, consultants take over

THE nationwide strike by resident doctors went ahead on Monday as planned with a warning from the National Association of Resident Doctors that the industrial action would be total.

Activities in most hospitals across the country were paralysed, just as NARD vowed that it would not call off the strike until its demands were met.

Some patients were stranded particularly in some Abuja hospitals as a result of the strike.

The President of the association, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, who spoke in an interview with The PUNCH, said the Federal Government had yet to reach out to the doctors on their demands.

Okhuaihesuyi had on Saturday in Umuahia after the Annual General Meeting of the association’s National Executive Council announced that members would be embarking on an indefinite strike.

Some of the issues raised include the inconsistent payment of salaries, hazard allowances, non-payment of death benefits and issues surrounding registration of members on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

He said, “They (government) have not reached out or uttered a word. We are not the villains here; the public might not understand. We will not call off the strike unless all the issues we raised are implemented.”

Similarly, it was learnt that the Ministry of Labour and Employment headed by Chris Ngige had not made any move to stop the ongoing strike.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Charles Akpan, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday.

“There is no green light yet; no document as regards the strike. So, there is no information I can give,” Akpan said.

However, a visit to major hospitals across the city of Abuja revealed that patients were stranded due to the ongoing strike by the resident doctors.

A patient, who spoke under the condition of anonymity at the Gwarimpa District Hospital, disclosed that he came to the hospital in the morning but experienced delay.

He said, “I came here around 7.30am, there were a few people available to handle patients; some of the nurses were angry but we understood them as some had to take the places of some doctors. I was attended to around 4pm.”

Trainee doctors take over operations at FMC, Abuja

At the Federal Medical Centre, trainee doctors took over operations as most of the resident doctors refused to show up.

The hospital’s Public Relations Officer, Olomofe Kayode, confirmed this in an interview with one of our correspondents.

Meanwhile, the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria on Monday threatened to repost house officers of hospitals who embarked on the strike without remuneration.

The council’s position was contained in a statement by its Registrar, Dr T.A.B Sanusi, titled ‘Press release on professional ethics for house officers’.

In Lagos, patients were left stranded as doctors at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi and Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital joined their national bodies on the indefinite strike.

The President of the Association of Resident Doctors, LUTH chapter, Dr. Oluwafemi Hassan, said the 234 resident doctors in the hospital commenced strike at 8:00am as directed by the NARD.

He said patients had been handed over to the consultants in the hospital, saying members of the association would not attend to any patient during the strike.

Also, the ARD President, Federal Neuropsychiatrist Hospital, Yaba, Dr Samuel Aladejare, stated that the patients would no doubt be affected by the strike.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Lagos State chapter, Dr Adetunji Adenekan, on Monday, called on the state government to withdraw the circular indicating the removal of house officers and NYSC doctors from Scheme of Service.

Adenekan at a briefing said, “By removing them from the scheme of service, you erode on the relativity pattern that exists in the health sector where the least on the cadre of doctor must be at a particular ratio to the least of other health workers.”

At Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, Osun State, the compliance with the strike was total, though some patients were said to have been attended to.

But the situation was different at UNIOSUN Teaching Hospital, Osogbo, as doctors were seeing attending to patients on Monday.

A doctor in the hospital said ARD members had not joined the strike but declined further comment.

Patients discharged in FETHI

However, some of the patients at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido Ekiti were discharged by the hospital authorities.

But consultants in the hospital managed others while some patients decided to stay back in bed, hoping the national strike would be suspended soon.

NARD Southwest Caucus Leader, Dr Taofeek Sanni, who works at FETHI, said compliance with the strike in the South-West was total, adding, “In the morning (Monday), we asked our doctors to hand over to the consultants, who are not on strike.”

Also, NARD EKSUTH President, Dr Olaniyi Olaoye, said, “In the last three weeks, the hospital could not admit patients as a result of the strike action. We are calling on the state government to pay our outstanding salaries for us to resume work to attend to the growing number of patients in the state.”

Also, resident doctors at Federal Medical Centre, Katsina on Monday joined their colleagues across the country on the strike as directed by NARD.

But activities still went on at the medical centre on Monday despite the resident doctors’ strike as patients were seen being attended to by other health personnel, including consultants, medical officers, nurses and laboratory technicians.

The Vice President, Association of Resident Doctors, FMC, Katsina, Dr Hassan-King Obaro said resident doctors at the centre had joined the strike.

There was also total compliance in Sokoto State as only senior doctors and nurses were seen offering medical attention to patients at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching Hospital.

NARD Chairman in Sokoto State, Dr Sufiyanu Yabo, also confirmed that the strike action embarked upon was in accordance with the directive of the association.

In Jalingo, the Taraba State capital, The PUNCH observed that hospital wards were empty while some patients were seeing leaving the hospitals.

In Kwara State, ARD members, University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital also joined their counterparts in the nationwide strike.

The PUNCH gathered that the doctors stayed away and did not report for duty at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital on Monday as many patients who had appointments with their doctors were seen stranded in the premises.

Speaking in an interview with journalists in Ilorin, President of ARD-UITH, Dr Habeeb Badmus, said members no option than to stand in solidarity with the call by the national body to press home their demands.

The strike also took its toll on patients at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital as scores of patients and their relatives were stranded at the family medicine section and casualty units of the facility located at the GRA axis of Port Harcourt.

Some of them said they were referred to other hospitals as a result of the resident doctors’ strike.

Speaking to our correspondent, a civil servant, Joseph Oguru told our correspondent that his wife was admitted for kidney-related issues, but was referred to the Military hospital due to the strike.

Meanwhile, resident doctors of  Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, Awka and Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital Nnewi, Anambra State, joined the nationwide strike.

In Edo State, the effect of the strike in government hospitals in Benin is yet to be felt as patients were seen moving in and out of the hospitals on Monday.

At the University of Benin Teaching Hospital in Ugbowo, patients were seen still moving in and out of the hospital, while the ones in the wards were on their bed with family members attending to them, hoping that the strike would be halted to avert a major crisis.

Patients sent home

In Enugu State, patients in various government hospitals were sent home on Monday as a result of the doctors’ strike.

One of our correspondents, who monitored the strike action in some hospitals in the state capital, observed that at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, only 40 patients, who came very early in the morning, were selected to be attended to by two consultant doctors on duty.

A staff nurse who spoke with our correspondent on condition of anonymity, said, “We came to work this morning and the resident doctors told us that they were on strike that they would not see patients and left.”

Also speaking on telephone interview, the Chairman of NARD, Orthopedic Hospital, Dr Suzuki Uzodimma, told The PUNCH that resident doctors were not happy for the strike, but added, “We can’t help it. It is only the last resort.

At the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri in Imo State, it was observed that apart from resident doctors, other medical personnel were working.

The Public Relations Officer of FMC, Owerri, Jacy Achonu, who spoke to our correspondent, confirmed that NARD members in the hospital were on strike.

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