By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
LAGOS â€” Doctors under the aegis of the Association ofÂ Resident Doctors, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LASUTH-ARD, branch, yesterday made good their threat to embark onÂ industrial action following refusal of the state government to accede to their demands.
The doctors, who are asking for immediate reversal of the deduction of 40 per cent of salaries of their members as penalty for participating in a recent nationwide strike called by the national body of the association, vowed to down tools for the next seven days.
At 11:00 a.m. yesterday, a crowd of patients were observed waiting to see doctors at the hospital, butÂ services were partially paralysed as all doctors below the cadre of consultants were not at their posts. Many of the striking doctors were observed converging in groups discussing the development. Only senior consultants were seen attending to patients. Although many were eventually attended to, the services were very slow.
Some patients lamented the long delay, others complained that they had no choice than to go home and come back another day. A patient who pleaded anonymity said she was at the hospital before 7 00 a.m but was unable to see a doctor until 12:30 p.m.
â€œWe cannot go through this problem again. Let the government resolve whatever these doctors are asking for. We are made to understand that they are junior doctors but all of us can feel their importance too,â€ she said.
Later, the National President of the Association, Dr. Olayinka Atilola, at a press briefing, warned that the failure of the Lagos State government and the hospital management to resolve the problem within the seven-day ultimatum would lead to an indefinite nationwide strike by every member of the association.
â€œFailure of the state government and the hospital management to reverse the decision to penalise LASUTH resident doctors that participated in the strike action called by this association by immediately refunding the 12-day salary, the entire membership of NARD will have no choice but begin a nationwide indefinite solidarity strike with the LASUTH doctors starting from Thursday, 10th of June 2010.â€
He further called on Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and the management of the hospital to immediately reverse their earlier decision to withhold a pro-rated salary of the doctors who participated in the strike action.
Earlier,Â the national president had condemned the Federal Governmentâ€™s failure to meet any of the associationâ€™s three-point demand in spite of its assurances to urgently resolve the issues raised.
Stating that the doctors were frustrated and saddened, he asked the citizenry not blame NARD for any disruption within the health sector if government continued to be insensitive.
He further demanded unconditional commencement of the CONMESS , arrears inclusive, with the June salary.
The association also demanded that the Federal Government set up a high – powered stakeholders committee with a clear mandate to look into the full ramifications of the residency training programme with specific emphasis on the issues raised by the association.
He also demanded that the government make a definite statement of commitment to earmarking a clear-cut budget for funding of the residency training programme in the overall budget of the ministry of Health in the 2011 budget.