By Sola Ogundipe, Abdulsalam Muhammad, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Normal healthcare services in Federal and State hospitals got off to a slow start yesterday as doctors under the aegis of the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, returned to work following the suspension of their 56 days old protracted indefinite strike over the weekend.
Several hours after most health institutions across the Federation opened for the day’s activities, medical doctors were not seen at their duty posts while a few that were present were said to be in a meeting.
A visit to some of the hospitals in Lagos showed almost total absence of patients at the various hospital departments and few doctors who claimed to have resumed duty were also offering skeletal services in the outpatient clinics and wards.
However, it was reliably gathered that the 16,000 resident doctors sacked a week ago across the country are yet to resume in their various hospitals.
Vanguard investigation revealed that in all the hospitals visited, the situation has not changed from what it was since the doctors embarked on the protracted strike.
From the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH; Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH, National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, NOHL, among others, the situation was the same.
At LASUTH, for instance, normal activities were yet to return when our reported visited around 12.00 yesterday. At the Medical Emergency Department of the hospital, it was gathered that new patients were not being admitted.
A few patients were seen lying helplessly at the entrance with no immediate assistance in sight.
A staff of the hospital who spoke to Vanguard under anonymity confirmed that only skeletal services are being rendered for the time being as no tangible arrangements for full resumption of services were on ground.
“Most of these people you see here are waiting for doctors, if they are lucky they may be attended to, but what I know is that the doctors are currently at an emergency meeting,” the staff explained.
Similarly, at the surgical outpatient department of the hospital, a large number of patients were seen on a long queue, waiting to be attended to.
Some of the patients said they had been around since 6:00am but were yet to be attended to by any doctor because of the long queue.
A few health workers seen attending to some of the patients were , however, not wearing protective materials in line with safety measures recommended by the state government to contain outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease.
Also at LUTH, there were no patients in sight.
From the Female Medical, Male Surgical to Paediatric departments, no tangible services were being rendered. The same scenario played out at the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Yaba.
Reacting to the strike, Chairman, LUTH Association of Resident Doctors, ARD, Dr. Olubunmi Omojowolo, said the strike had been suspended but there were a lot of intricacies concerning the strike.
“Generally, after calling off a strike it takes some time before things will start falling into place and this particular strike, is complicated by the fact that resident doctors are still sacked. The Federal Government is yet to reverse their decision and the resident doctors constitute the bulk of doctors in Teaching Hospitals.
“Even now, the resident doctors are on ground but we cannot work until the Federal government withdraws the circular,” he noted saying that other cadre of doctors notably the consultants cannot do much without the resident doctors.
Also reacting, the Secretary, NMA Lagos, Dr. Saheed Babajide, confirmed that the strike has been called off, but said the doctors had resumed duty.
“Let me also tell you that the resident doctors are not working because the Federal government has not reversed its circular on the sack of the 16,000 resident doctors. Again, we have also gone to the industrial court to stop the Chief Medical Directors of the various Teaching Hospitals from giving the resident doctors letters of termination.”
In Kano, the doctors have also not resumed duties 24 hours after the strike was called off.
Vanguard checks in the commercial city revealed that a huge crowd of Out Patients that were seen in all the three tertiary health institutions Monday left home disappointed as there were no doctors on duty to attend to them.
At the Malam Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, beds were still empty as no patient has been admitted, while it was the same scenario in other Government Hospitals including Murtala Mohammed Hospital and Abdullahi Wase Hospital.