Hospitals Turn Back Patients As Resident Doctors Begin Strike

April 2, 2021
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By our Correspondents  |

Patients who trooped to public hospitals to keep their appointments were turned back yesterday by the management because there were no doctors to attend to them. The medical doctors had complied with the strike declared by the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).

Some of the patients said they were asked to come back next week in the event of the doctors calling of the strike.

However, skeletal services were maintained in the hospitals by consultants and nurses, who attended to emergency cases.

The worst victims of the strike were out-patients doctors who were denied services and directed to come back at undisclosed dates.

The strike came as last minutes’ efforts by the federal government to avert the strike were unsuccessful.

The leadership of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) and the government’s delegation led by the minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, had a closed door meeting which lasted for several hours on Wednesaday. However, the two parties failed to reach an agreement.

NARD president, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told LEADERSHIP Friday that as usual, the government promised to look into their demands and asked them to sign an MoU but “we were tired of promises and so we have to embark on the strike.”

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He said even though the association was planning to meet with its members, it is most likely that the strike will continue.

The association had on Sunday threatened to embark on an indefinite strike from yesterday if the demands of its members were not met. This followed the expiration of a 60-day ultimatum given to the federal government during the January 2021 NEC meeting of the Association.

The doctors decried the agony of their members who they said have not been paid salaries for several months despite uninterrupted service delivery to the country.

They also lament the situation of their members in some state tertiary institutions like ABSUTH being owed 20 months’ salaries, IMSUTH five months’ salaries and UNIMEDTH three months.

Locum Doctors Take Charge Of Activities At Federal Hospitals In Kaduna

Doctors in federal health establishments in Kaduna State joined the strike which affected activities at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH), Zaria, Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, National Eye Centre and National Eye Care Centre.

But locum doctors attended to patients in some of the hospitals visited in Kaduna.

However, resident doctors in Kaduna State health institutions did not join the strike.

The chairman of Kaduna State Resident Doctors’ Association, Dr. Umar Ikara, said for obvious reasons, his members declined joining the strike because “we have peculiar challenges different from those of the national body”.

According to him, “We held a meeting with our congress members and they were skeptical about joining national strike. They said, usually when they join the strike and the demands of the national body are met, they call off the strike even when our peculiar challenges are not even addressed. So, we have reported the thought of our congress to the national body. So, our members are not on strike.”

At the National Ear Care Centre, Kaduna, locum doctors provided skeletal services to patients.

The chairman of NARD in the Ear Care Centre, Dr. Magaji Auwal and his members were out of the facility, but he confirmed that they were on an indefinite strike as directed by their national body, when contacted on phone.

At the National Ear Care Centre, some patients waited patiently to be attended to with the only locum doctor on ground.

Healthcare services were also provided at the Federal Medical Centre and Specialist Hospital, Yola,.

Sources said the strike was not observed in the hospitals because of the insurgency affecting the state.

Patients were attended to at the emergency units of the two hospitals while out-patients departments were full of activities.

However, doctors at the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owerri in Imo State joined their counterparts in other states to down tools. Nurses said they could only attend to out-patients with minimal cases while consultants and medical officers took care of others including inpatients in their wards.

In Lagos State, the most affected were patients who had appointments with doctors, as their appointments, were cancelled due to the ongoing strike.

Speaking with LEADERSHIP Friday, Mrs Philomena Kalu, who wanted to see her doctor at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), said on getting to the hospital yesterday morning she was told that her appointment was cancelled by the doctor. “I was told to come back next week, that my doctor is not on ground to attend to me.”

Another patient, Mr Joseph Olamide, “I wanted to see the doctor at LASUTH for a follow-up, but I was told they are on strike, that my appointment has been cancelled, till hopefully, next week. I was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I just pray they call off the strike, so we can go back to normal.”

It was the same story at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) as a nurse said all appointments were cancelled until further notice. “The only section working at the hospital is the emergency department. Consultants are only attending to emergency and in-house cases. We are not seeing new patients or those who have appointments with consultants, due to the strike,” she added

The national president of NARD, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, said all resident doctors had embarked on the nationwide strike since 8:00am, while exco members analyse the offers presented by the government.

In the same vein, the past president, Association of Resident Doctors, LASUTH-ARD, Dr Itohan Oaku told LEADERSHIP Friday that it is unfair that the salaries of house officers have not been paid for four months. “We are fighting for them because they are the ones who do the majority of the jobs in the hospitals.”

Resident doctors in federal hospitals in Taraba State joined the strike.

The decision to join the strike by the resident doctors in the state was disclosed by the state chairman of the association, Dr. Gabriel Ahmed.

“Yes sir. We have joined the strike today (yesterday),” he said.

The chairman, NARD at FMC, Jalingo, Dr. Divine Yakong, stated that the state had ran into a sympathetic situation having it that the nurses had embarked on strike two days ago.

The president of the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Umuahia branch, Dr. Kelechi Chikezie, said the members joined the action by 8am on Thursday and planned to sustain it because the notice was given over 60 days ago.

Chikezie said the cause of the action had remained about the welfare of the members and backlog of several months of salary arrears over which he accused the federal government of paying lip service to.

In Plateau State, the president of ARD, Jos University Teaching Hospital (JUTH), Dr. Nalda Nanfal, said his branch had joined the strike.

According to him, NARD JUTH chapter has complied hundred per cent with the directive of the national secretariat and has joined the strike immediately.

Also reacting to the development, Mrs. Bridget Omini, the public relations officer of JUTH, said the strike is nationwide which commenced on March 31.

The strike has partly paralysed healthcare services at the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH), Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital.

When LEADERSHIP Friday visited the health institution, the resident doctors were conspicuously absent, except for a few consultants who were attending to patients.

Many patients that came for treatment oblivious of the strike action were seen waiting for attention.

A female patient who gave her name as Uduak Okon heaved a sigh of relief when she was told by a fellow patient that some medical consultants had arrived to offer skeletal services to them.

At exactly 8am at the Alex-Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki, all the resident doctors, and those on housemanship were absent at the hospital.

Only the nurses were attending to patients at both the FETHA 1 and that of FETHA 2.

A patient, Mrs. Ifeoma Okenwa, who had a major operation a few days ago, said because of her condition, she was promptly attended to by a consultant and some nurses.

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