Activities in public hospitals in various parts of the country were paralysed yesterday as resident doctors began a five-day warning strike.
The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) had given the federal government a May 29 deadline to address their grievances or face a full-blown strike.
The warning strike started 8am on Wednesday, May 17 and would end by 8am Monday, May 22, following the government’s failure to meet the association’s demands.
When our correspondents visited public hospitals across the country on Wednesday, it was observed that out patients who visited some health facilities were not attended to due to the warning strike.
A visit to the Nyanya General Hospital in Abuja at about 9am showed that some patients were returning home from the hospital even though skeletal services were going on.
One of the patients, Martins Osai, told our correspondent that he was not aware of the warning strike and that he came to the hospital to see a doctor because he has not been feeling well for days.
At the Asokoro District Hospital, Abuja, doctors on housemanship were attending to patients while emergency cases were referred to consultants.
A former head of clinical services in the hospital, Dr Chidi Nnabuchi, said the hospital would operate based on available capacity.
He said, “Emergency care would be offered where necessary.”
In Lagos, as at the time our correspondent visited the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) (at 11:00am on Wednesday) a lot of outpatients were given another appointment day.
A lady who brought his son, who had a severe stomach upset, told our correspondent that her son was not attended to, as the doctor directed her to the nearest Primary Healthcare Centre. “My son’s case is a critical case, hence the reason I brought him to the hospital. I have been here since 7:00am. We could not sleep last night, because of the severe pain. Four hours later, a nurse came out to tell me that I will not be attended to, as they are only trying to attend to emergency cases due to the strike. She however told me to go to the nearest PHC or to a private clinic. That is where I am going now,” she stated.
Meanwhile, some resident doctors who work at LASUTH told LEADERSHIP that they are complying to the directive of the association, hence the reason they are not attending to patients.
In view of the strike, the secretary of the Medical and Consultant Association of Nigeria, MDCAN, LASUTH, Dr Morouf Abdulsalam, told LEADERSHIP that consultant doctors are keeping the hospitals afloat as much as they can. He however, acknowledged that notice of the strike was served and every other doctor in the hospital are working except members of NARD.
“We are having skeletal services here and there and it is impossible for the consultants to take over the services of the resident doctors. The aim is not to take over their jobs but to as much as possible provide services that are critical to our well-being.”
The president, LASUTH, NARD, Dr Salman Abeeb Oladapo revealed that the strike commenced at 8:00 am, adding that, “We started it in our centre and it is 100 per cent compliance from our members. Though we have started to engage the management and the government, we are hopeful that very soon our demands are going to be met both at the federal and state levels so that we can start to discuss amongst ourselves and see a way out of this.”
Speaking on their demands, Oladapo averred that one of their demands is the need for the government to increase their salary by at least 200 per cent. “The salary structure started in 2009. The idea was for CONMESS to be increased every five years. It was in action by 2014. When it started effectively then, it was due for another review because that was five years after but up till now, there is yet to be an increment. That is why we are telling the government that it is long overdue for an upward review,” he explained.
Meanwhile, the Federal Ministry of Health said they are working with other relevant ministries to ensure the industrial dispute is resolved.
The director of public health, Dr Morenike Alex-Okoh, stated this at a press briefing to mark World Hypertension Day, in Abuja, that “As usual, the leadership of the ministry will be engaging the Ministry of Labour and relevant stakeholders and the resident doctors to resolve whatever the issues are and we hope these issues will be resolved.”
However, the minister of labour and employment, Senator Chris Ngige has warned members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve the strike, describing it as illegal.
At the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, the doctors joined the nationwide warning strike. Consultants, nurses and other caregivers took up the responsibility of attending to both the old and new patients in the hospital.
In spite of the strike embarked upon by NARD members, activities at the UITH were still upbeat yesterday when our correspondent visited the hospital.
The deputy director, Corporate Affairs Unit of UITH, Mrs Olabisi Ajiboye confirmed to LEADERSHIP that consultants, nurses and other caregivers were attending to both the old and new patients.
“The consultants, nurse and other caregivers are on ground attending to patients. Though the workload is heavy, we are coping. We are not turning patients back,” she stated.
Locum doctors have stepped in to attend to patients at the various tertiary health facilities in Kaduna State.
Our correspondent reports that, at the National Eye Centre, National Ear Care Centre and Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria patients were subjected to long queues to see the Locum Doctors who are very few on duty as a result of the strike action.
At the ABUTH, president of NARD, Dr Suleiman Isa Adah said they were complying with the warning strike and the patients in their care were handed over to consultants and the Locum Doctors.
Adah however assured that doctors will resume work on Monday after the warning strike may have elapsed pending further directive from the national body.
In Asaba, Delta State, patients were seen leaving the hospitals because of the doctors’ strike.
When our correspondent went round some wards at the hospitals, there were a few patients who looked frustrated.
Resident doctors in Akwa Ibom State also joined the strike. At the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) and the General Hospital, Anua, Uyo, and other public hospitals, skeletal services could be observed, while emergency and other big cases could not be attended to.
“We have started the strike today,” a senior diabetes consultant, at UUTH, who would not want his name in print told our correspondent.
The state chairman of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD), Dr Margaret, who confirmed the strike, said she was in a meeting, promising to brief our correspondent today.
Resident doctors in Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife, on Wednesday joined their colleagues nationwide for the warning strike.
Speaking with our correspondent in Ile-Ife, NARD president, OAUTH chapter, Dr Anthony Anuforo, said consultants had taken over the care of patients that were in critical condition, while others were discharged at the commencement of the industrial action by 8am.
However, UNIOSUN Teaching Hospital Resident Doctors will not join the strike following the timely intervention of Osun State governor, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Resident doctors withdrew their services in Nassarawa State in compliance to the five days warning strike declared by the national leadership of the association.
A nursing mother, Mrs Halima Tanko said she had returned to the facility to get medical attention for her set of twins but couldn’t do so due to the absence of a doctor to attend to them.
She called on the government to meet the demands of the striking doctors to enable them resume duties.
Also, Malam Baba Audu, an 80-year-old man who is suffering from toothache said: “ I have been suffering from tooth ache. I have an appointment with the doctor to receive medical attention but on reaching the hospital I was told the doctors have gone on strike. I cannot afford the medical bill at a private hospital.”