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Doctors’ strike paralyses hospitals, patients groan

By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Murtala Adewale (Kano), Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt), Ibrahim Obansa (Lokoja), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri), Rauf Oyewole (Bauchi), Ayodele Afolabi (Ado-Ekiti), Anietie Akpan (Calabar), Mansur Aramide (Yola), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Mansur Aramide (Gombe)
02 April 2021   |   4:30 am
There are fears the poor health indices recorded by the country and the spread of COVID-19 may get worse as the ongoing strike by resident doctors paralysed activities in 98 per cent of government...

PHOTO: usnews

• Hospitals expel, reject patients
• NARD says members unlikely to call off strike soon,
• Congress to decide next line of action
• Says FG’s assurances not concrete despite signing agreement

There are fears the poor health indices recorded by the country and the spread of COVID-19 may get worse as the ongoing strike by resident doctors paralysed activities in 98 per cent of government hospitals nationwide.

When The Guardian reporters visited Federal Government-owned hospitals and health institutions across the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, patients and their relatives were seen groaning in despair. Most of the hospitals had started discharging patients while others had stopped admitting new ones.

Resident doctors in most of the hospitals visited complied fully with the strike directive from their parent body. Only medical consultants and nurses were seen offering skeletal services.

The implication is that since resident doctors offer more than 50 per cent of medical services in Federal Government-owned hospitals and health institutions, patients with critical conditions are more likely to be affected if the strike continued.

Also, despite attempts by the Federal Government and other stakeholders to persuade resident doctors under the aegis of National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to call off their one-day industrial action, reasons have emerged why the leadership of the association is not likely to.

President, NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Guardian late evening yesterday: “As we speak, we just finished a very long meeting with representatives of Federal Government. We signed agreements on how to address the issues. They have made assurances and given deadlines on when to meet our demands. But nothing is concrete yet. Our demands have not been met.

“We are taking their promises to our congress, for our members to decide. The meeting is likely to end before 8.30pm on Thursday. From the feelers on ground, it is unlikely that the congress will approve suggestions to call off the strike. I can tell you, it is unlikely that we will call off the strike. But nothing is impossible.

“We have signed agreements in the past that were not kept. But we keep our fingers crossed. We hope to resolve the issues as soon as possible and probably suspend the strike.”

IN an attempt to avert the nationwide strike, which commenced yesterday, the Federal Government had earlier on Thursday signed a Memorandum of Action (MoA) with NARD.

The agreement was signed at midnight on Wednesday after a marathon meeting between the government team and the leadership of NARD at the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.

The meeting, which lasted seven hours, deliberated on the issues raised by the aggrieved doctors in their Notice of Trade Dispute, including the non-payment of salaries of some house officers.

MEANWHILE, medical activities were paralysed at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku, Ozalla, Enugu on Thursday as resident doctors joined their counterparts nationwide to protest non-implementation of their welfare packages.

The Guardian, on a visit the hospital at noon, discovered that none of the resident doctors reported for work. Medical consultants, who had also started discharging patients, whose cases were not too serious, handled the clinics.

A consultant, who spoke with The Guardian on condition of anonymity, stated: “I cannot admit any emergency case at the moment. Everywhere is grounded. The resident doctors did not come to work today. They are on strike. I am the only one in the whole of this department.”

At the time of filing this report on Thursday afternoon, it was not clear whether resident doctors at the state teaching hospital would join the strike on sympathy grounds.

A doctor at the Enugu State University Teaching Hospital (ESUTH) said his colleagues were meeting on Thursday but could not disclose if it was to join the strike.

ALSO, clinical services at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) Kano were, yesterday, paralysed.

Already, AKTH has placed embargo on new admission while patients recuperating on admission were abruptly discharged because of the absence of doctors in the hospital. The Guardian learnt that the 28-bed capacity female medical ward was reduced to six patients because of the dearth of medical personnel. Those left behind were rather reconsidered due to their critical conditions, it was gathered.

Similarly, patients at male clinical ward were compulsorily discharged from the hospital by the hospital management. Worse still, the doctors’ strike also halted routine clinical consultation across all the specialty clinics, while patients at the General Out-Patient Department (GOPD) were left stranded.

Although, other health workers, including nurses, lab scientists, physiotherapists and others on administrative services remained on their duty post, the non-attendance of doctors invariably rendered other service providers redundant.

Hanatu Hassan, daughter to a 65-year-old Hajiya Marya Hassan appealed to both resident doctors and the Federal Government to resolve the lingering differences in the interest of patients.

Another patient, Betris James, who managed to speak with our correspondent, appealed to doctors and government to settle their crisis. She lamented that nurses alone could not manage patients.

President of ARD, AKTH branch, Dr. Mujaheed Muhammad Hassan, told The Guardian that ARD were left with no alternative.

Reacting to the strike action, spokesperson for the hospital, Hajiya Hauwa Abdullai, told our correspondent on the telephone that the management had no choice but to strike. Abdullahi, however, explained that the emergency unit, dialysis and other critical departments would be managed by consultants.

SERVICE delivery at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital (UPTH) has continued, but at a very slow pace.

A visit to the health institution showed that only consultants, nurses and few other health workers attended to patients.

In an interview, the Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee of UPTH, Princewill Stanley, assured the public that no aspect of the service would be shutdown.

He said the management of the hospital had activated its strike intervention protocols.

While admitting it was not easy to run a hospital without resident doctors, he said: “The activities will slow down but the fact remains that this gridlock will now make patients stay longer than expected.

“Definitely, there will be delay because resident doctors actually do the bulk of the work because of their weight and number, they give maximum support.”

Also, Chairman, Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) at UPTH, Diamond Tonye Obene, lamented that the doctors have not been paid their salaries for three months, hence they cannot perform optimally with empty stomach.

“Some of the doctors have not earned salaries for three months, patients should even be concerned about doctors’ welfare. A doctor that is hungry won’t perform optimally,” she stated.

ALSO in Kogi State, resident doctors joined their colleagues across the country.

Speaking with The Guardian in Lokoja, the Chairman of Nigeria Medical Association, (NMA), in Lokoja, Dr. Omakoji Oyigu, said the strike was total.

Another member of the Association of Resident Doctors, who spoke with our correspondent in confidence, said: “We have joined the strike as directed by our national secretariat. It is total. The strike is on course in the state.

Meanwhile, when our correspondent visited the Federal Medical Centre (FMC) in Lokoja, the nurses and other auxiliary staff members in the hospital were seen at their duty posts.

A relative of one of the patients at the FMC Lokoja said they were compelled to move their patients from the FMC facility to Specialist hospital Lokoja because of the strike.

MEMBERS of NARD in the state have abandoned patients at FMC, Owerri and the Imo State University Teaching Hospital (IMSUTH), all in Imo State.

Patients were not attended to, even as their relatives worked towards evacuating them to private hospitals.

Speaking to The Guardian on the development, the Imo State chapter Chairman of NMA, Dr. Okwara Chidiebere, decried the fact that government owed them for months while over-labouring them.

He said: “Doctors should not be owed. The resident doctors should be paid accordingly. There should be no blame game. A situation where there are no new House Officers and those working are over-worked. This is an avoidable strike. The NARD members in the state are complying fully.”

ALSO, Chairman of NARD in Bauchi, Dr. Mohammed Nur Algazali, said over 150 members joined the strike.

NARD members at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University Teaching Hospital, Bauchi and FMC in Azare complied with the industrial action.

Mohammed said: “The situation is pathetic and unfortunate but we just have to embark on the strike action to press home our demands. We are complying with the directive of our national body for total indefinite nationwide strike and all centers are to comply based on what is contained in the communique.”

THE strike embarked upon by resident doctors yesterday paralysed activities at major hospitals in Ekiti state.

Patients at the Federal Teaching Hospital, Ido-Ekiti (FETHI) and the Ekiti State Teaching Hospital (EKSUTH) were also stranded.

When The Guardian visited some of the hospitals it was observed that there was full compliance as resident doctors shunned their duty posts in compliance with the directives of the national secretariat.
UNIVERSITY of Calabar Teaching Hospital (UCTH) and other government hospitals in Cross River State were deserted as resident doctors joined the strike action.

At the UCTH, Ibadan and General hospital visited, most patients had vacated their hospital beds claiming they were not sure of proper healthcare.

One of the patients, Etukawan Eyo, who is admitted to one of the government hospitals, said: “Since morning nobody attended to me and I am not feeling fine. I am just waiting for my people to come and carry me out because nobody is attending to me and other patients.”