… as 292 doctors vote for strike, 71 against, 13 abstain
By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Lagosians who may have been praying fervently for the suspension of the ongoing nine-week old strike by doctors in the state may be disappointed as another move to resolve the face-off between them and the government suffered another major set back, yesterday.
In a split decision after a 5-hour congress called by the striking doctors under the auspices of the Medical Guild, 292 doctors voted that the strike should continue, 71 voted that the strike should be called off, while 13 abstained from voting.
It will be recalled that the doctors under the employment of Lagos State had, on August 9, commenced an indefinite strike to press home their demands: the implementation of Consolidated Medical Salary Scale, COMESS; reinstatement of the sacked chairman of the Medical Guild, Ibrahim Olaifa; resumption of monthly deduction of members’ union dues and a downward review of pay-as-you-earn taxes.
In a chat with journalists, Chairman of Medical Guild, Dr. Oyebode Williams, said the decision by the congress to continue the strike was due to the state government’s insensitivity to their plight.
According to him, despite the appeals they had been receiving from Lagosians, the state government had not shown any commitment to their demands.
‘We’re not wicked, but…’
He said: “It is not that we are hardening our hearts to the overwhelming appeals. We have brought them to the house, but the members are saying they wanted the basic thing, which is the letter of commitment by the state government.
“We have shifted grounds several times but the state government has refused to negotiate at all. All these weeks we have not started any negotiation. We have adjusted our demands, yet no way.
“Out of the 36 states of the Federation, about 11 states have started paying CONMESS and we in Lagos State do more work than doctors in those states. Government has not offered anything. All we saw the other time is just a total figure to be paid to all health workers in the state.”
Williams who claimed that over 500 doctors who attended the congress have agreed that the CONMESS should start now or nothing less, explained that the decision was finally made, yesterday, since the state government has refused to do anything about their demands.
However, all efforts to get the comments of the medical directors present at the congress proved abortive as they all maintained sealed lips.
As at press time, it was gathered that the Lagos State Commissioner for Health was attending an Executive Meeting.
Vanguard investigations revealed that most wards in Lagos hospitals were now empty and the few patients in LASUTH were being attended to by nurses.
A relative of a patient, one Mrs. Olowokene, told Vanguard that his younger brother was forced to stay behind in the hope that doctors may call off their strike.