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Patients’ lives at stake as LUTH doctors’ strike lingers

By Chukwuma Muanya and Adaku Onyenucheya
13 June 2019   |   3:20 am
The crisis between the management of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) has gained momentum as both parties trade words over issues surrounding the June 7 indefinite strike action. The management of LUTH had debunked the allegations made by the association, comprising Resident Doctors and all House Officers…

LUTH complex

The crisis between the management of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) has gained momentum as both parties trade words over issues surrounding the June 7 indefinite strike action.

The management of LUTH had debunked the allegations made by the association, comprising Resident Doctors and all House Officers in the hospital, stating that all demands put forward by the association were baseless and untrue.

Meanwhile, all the members of the ARD held a two-day warning strike on May 22-23, on the grounds of employment of resident doctors and House Officers into all departments, installation of street lights in all corners of the hospital for their safety, as a member was stabbed to death in front of the hospital as well as payment of all outstanding salaries and arrears.

They alleged that the LUTH management owes the deceased and has still not paid his family the money, despite his demise.

While the LUTH management responded through the Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee (CMAC) and Associate Professor of Medicine, College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/LUTH, Olufemi Fasanmdade, saying the association’s present agitation started when it demanded the withdrawal of administrative queries given to three erring trainees and apology from the hospital management to the association among other things.

The LUTH management and representatives of its board had during the second day of the warning strike held a meeting with the leadership of the ARD, which had the presence of Alhaji Bashir Bolarinwa, distinguished Professor Igwilo and the Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos in which it was “mutually adjourned to give time for the full Board to deliberate on its several observations in three weeks time”, according to Fasanmade.

He said the representative of the Board Chairman reminded the ARD that most of the issues it tabled were not within the control of the hospital, but all the same these would be conveyed to the appropriate authorities, while members of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) Executives, Lagos State Branch also held a meeting with the hospital management in company of two of the body past Chairmen, on this same issue.

The LUTH management, however, said it resolved with the ARD to call off the strike, which the association’s leadership denied in a phone interview with The Guardian, saying its decision to embark on a total and indefinite strike action stands on June 7.

Fasanmade said the hospital management was displeased with the communiqué the LUTH ARD released on social media platform, calling on all resident doctors and house officers to embark on an indefinite strike with effect from today, Friday, 7th June 2019, unless the LUTH management complies with the ARD demands.

He noted that the notice of the impending strike in the hospital is ill informed and unnecessary.

The CMAC said on the issue of employment, LUTH does not employ resident doctors and house officers, as each cadres is admitted periodically for training, under specific guidelines, rules and regulations and paid while in the Hospital for a specified period while completing their study based on extant approvals from appropriate Government agencies

“Employment is generally predicated on ability to pay, in this case, the budget allocated to the Institution by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Thus, any group’s wish-list must necessarily factor-in the budgetary implications of their demands, especially now that Government is sensitive to disproportional cost of funding personnel emoluments,” he noted.

He said about 173 House Officers were on LUTH payroll in June 2018, while a new batch was being prepared to resume, with a batch of 250 new House Officers admitted in October and December 2018, who will finish in September and November 2019 respectively.

He added that about 255 Resident Doctors are on LUTH payroll and another 96 Supernumerary Resident doctors, adding that a list of over 180 new Resident Doctors interviewed for admission by the Hospital Management Board is awaiting final approval at the Budget Office in Abuja.

He said so far, LUTH has enough house officers for the care of about 400 patients on admission, as new ones would be admitted for training when the time is due and not before then.

Speaking on the issue of non-payment of salaries and arrears, Fasanmade said all staff have been migrated to the IPPIS platform, a centralised payment system which pays directly into the bank account of each Federal employee from Abuja since the beginning of 2019, noting that LUTH owes no salary to resident doctors, while he described the doctors allegation as “pure fabrication on the part of the ARD President”.

Fasanmade said LUTH presently has zero tolerance for anyone who threatens its survival and the duty to serve humanity, as “we continue to attract investors to assist in bridging our several infrastructural gaps, noting that each house officer signed not to participate in any strike action during their training as anyone who does so will have their admission and training reviewed in accordance with extant rules.

“Picketing by any group is not allowed within the Hospital premises as it is an essential service area. Anyone who wishes to stay off work may do so at his or her own risk, but no intimidation of other staff willing to work will be tolerated. It should be noted that every trainee would be assessed not only on skills acquisition, but also on ethics, morals and character. The Government’s No-Work-No-Pay rule is in force and will be strictly enforced,” he said.

The LUTH management, however, assured the general public that the hospital will be open for business and no services will be shut down, adding that all peace-loving LUTH workers are also assured that no efforts will be spared to protect lives and property within LUTH at all times.

Reacting to the LUTH management, the ARD President, Dr. Kayode Makinde, said the management is lying on the issue, saying all the figures of the resident doctors and house officer are fabricated.

He said in 2016 LUTH had over 600 doctors, but today the number is less, with doctors leaving every six months to look for greener pastures elsewhere, while their space remain vacant, without employing more hands to fill that gap.

He said LUTH has not paid doctors their five months salaries and arrears, noting that they have no right to implement the ‘work and no pay’, while he accused the management of purposefully owing the doctors.

“If they say they don’t have access to salaries and they can’t pay, why will they effect ‘no work no pay’. That means they have access to the salaries, if they can effect no work no pay, why not use that effort to get our salaries instead of screaming no work no pay.

Nigerians should read in between the lines, this is grandstanding, they should address the issue.
They have started the light but they have not finished. The management is the representative of the federal government here in LUTH and they should do the needful. They don’t expect the doctors to go to Abuja and engagement the government on the issue of our salaries. What is the whole admin apparatus set up here if they can’t pay us our salaries,” he lamented.

He said the LUTH management has no right to threaten them with the agreement mentioned, noting “the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees that there is freedom of association, we are legally registered body and we have the right to go on strike if our demands are not met.

He continued: “The management has not called us for a meeting to say let both parties see what it can do together to solve the issue on ground. That does not show a responsive management. Their threat on the agreement is null and void, it will not stand.”