Patients groan, as doctors’ strike enters day four
Doctors in Lagos state-owned hospitals on Monday began an indefinite strike action that partially paralyzed healthcare services in all secondary and tertiary hospitals in the state.
At some hospitals visited on Tuesday, especially the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja, there was significant withdrawal of services on account of doctors that did not attend to their patients.
Except for some locum doctors that were seen attending to selected patients, the regular doctors were either absent or loitering on the corridors.
It would be recalled that the doctors, under the aegis of Medical Guild, had threatened to begin strike on Monday in protest of their salary arrears that were still withheld by the state government.
The doctors are asking for salaries for the months of May 2012, July, August and September 2014, the period they were on strike.
The government on the other hand, argued that the doctors did not work for the period and by the ‘no work, no pay rule,’ state government is not owing them.
Several efforts to reach a truce in the matter since the last six months were unsuccessful.
At the surgical outpatient department of LASUTH, patients were stranded for several hours until they left in frustration.
A patient, who identified himself as Kelvin, told The Guardian that he was scheduled for a minor surgery but only to found out that the doctors had proceeded on an industrial action.
He said: “I came here at 8am and was told to hold on for the doctors. Till 11am I didn’t see any doctor. I felt it was unusual and when I asked questions, the receptionist said the doctors were on strike but that I should still wait; maybe one of them will come and attend to me. When I checked back around 1pm, I was given another date for the operation,”
He said his surgery (for an undisclosed ailment) has been postponed till April 13.
“I find it so frustrating. I have taken some days off at work for this purpose and I had conducted tests worth of N26,000. All of that are wasted now because I will need to start all over again. I don’t understand how we do things around here at all. We just don’t consider other people and it is so frustrating,” he said.
Other patients that queued behind Kelvin also had their appointments postponed for another two weeks, while some got a month.
The atmosphere was, however, different at the emergency section of the hospital, where all emergency cases on ground were being attended to by members of the guild.
Chairman of the Medical Guild, Dr. Biyi Kufo, said they were in talks with the state government.
It was gathered that the state had given the doctors an ultimatum to either return to their duty post or leave the service completely, including emergencies.
Kufo said: “This government is always playing double standards and it is unfortunate. They just told us that they are not interested in emergency services; that we should either go back to work or stop all services. Such step was never taken when members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) went on strike. When will this government stop playing double standards and victimization?” he asked.
The chairman added that while his members would not give up dialogue and other peaceful measures to resolve the issues, the doctors would continue to put pressure on the government to do the right thing.
According to him, the issues in contention are the continued employment of doctors as casual (contract) workers, the non-employment of resident doctors in the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH) and the discriminatory application of the state’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy on members of the Medical Guild in the period between April/May 2012 and September 2014.
“We have said in the past and still maintain the position that government holds the doctors hostage in order to hold the people hostage, as we are bewildered that the administration ignored all our efforts to resolve the matter without a strike and only invited us to talk when we threatened a strike,” he said.