BY SOLA OGUNDIPE, CHIOMA OBINNA & GABRIEL OLAWALE
Nigerians seeking health services in public hospitals nationwide continue to face harrowing times even as the striking medical doctors under the aegis of the Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, hold an emergency meeting in Abuja today to review the indefinite strike they commenced July 1.
The Federal Government has described the strike as unnecessary, just as the Medical Consultants Association of Nigeria, MDCAN, has distanced itself from the strike action and assured the nation of uninterrupted hospital services.
While, there are rumours that the emergency meeting may bring positive decision as to officially suspend the strike, it was not very clear if all the members present at the proposed emergency meeting will support the decision.
Leadership of the NMA maintained sealed lips over the meeting, however, it was reliably gathered that the outcome is expected to determine the next line of action the doctors will take.
Meanwhile, health care services in all general, specialist and teaching hospitals and medical centres across the Federation have remained paralysed forcing thousands of patients discharged en-masse in the wake of the strike to secure alternative sources of treatment and care.
A visit to the hospitals weekend revealed that the hospitals have become a shadow of themselves as patients have virtually deserted the wards. A few who remained continue to lament their woes.
“We are just here under God’s grace and the nurses are trying their best,” one of the patients at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital told Vanguard.
Meanwhile, the Medical Consultants Association of Nigeria has opted out of the nationwide strike and assured the nation of uninterrupted hospital services.
National President, MDCAN, Dr. Steven Oluwole, in a statement said they were complying with the ruling of the National Industrial Court which stated that all parties should maintain the status quo till disputes are resolved.
“The MDCAN complies fully with the restraining order on all parties, which is contained in the ruling, delivered by Hon. Justice M.N. Esowe on June 27, 2014.
”In the same vein, MDCAN expects the other parties to the above suit to comply fully with the terms of the said restraining order,” Oluwole said.
He noted that branches of the MDCAN and individual consultants should continue to provide services to patients, but should exercise their professional judgment as to the best care feasible and practicable in the current situation.
“All patients and Nigerians are assured of quality and uninterrupted health care services. MDCAN pleads with the Federal Government of Nigeria to do all that is necessary to bring a quick end to the current impasse,” he assured.
Reacting to the strike weekend, the Minister of Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu described it as “unnecessary’
Wondering why the doctors have remained on strike after government signed a memorandum of understanding and has almost met all their demands, recalled that on receipt of the notice by NMA, government held a meeting with the Association on 25th June, 2014.
He said at the end of the 14-hour meeting chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, both the government and the NMA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which addressed all the 24 issues presented by the NMA.
”To be sure, almost all the issues in contention were either issues that had been satisfactorily resolved or issues that could be treated merely through administrative mechanism. However, the NMA jettisoned the MoU and proceeded on strike on the 1st of July 2014.
”Despite reneging on the MoU, the government immediately invited the NMA to series of meetings on 1st July, 2014 yet this could not dissuade the NMA from the strike they had embarked on. Another meeting that was planned for 2nd July, 2014 was aborted when the NMA officials failed to show up,” Chukwu said.
He noted that the NMA honoured another meeting schedule for Thursday, 3rd July, 2014 under the auspices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
Further, he explained that government has met its own side of the MoU and it is expected that the members of the NMA would from today begin to respond and attend to all emergency cases in public hospitals in the spirit of this understanding.
“The Federal Government was not unaware of the hardship the strike action has imposed on the Nigerians. Not only does the government disapprove of the strike but has made every effort to negotiate with the NMA and ensure the immediate resumption of services in government hospitals,” he said.