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NMA strike paralysis healthcare services in Lagos

By Sola Ogundipe, Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Healthcare delivery services in Federal and state-owned hospitals in Lagos were severely disrupted yesterday as doctors in the Federal hospitals joined their counterparts in the state in a 3-day solidarity strike.

Indications later emerged that the strike may take a national dimension.
Patients who turned up as early as 7.00a.m at most hospitals were turned back. At about 10.00a.m. when Vanguard visited the emergency wing of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, the unit was devoid of the usual hustle and bustle.

Hospital sources confirmed that intake of new patients and all forms of emergency services  had been suspended till further notice. However, it was gathered that the hospital management had made provision to cater for patients on admission in the wards.

At the National Orthopaedic Hospital Igbobi, NOHL, no unusual sign of activity was observed.

In a chat, the Chief Medical Director, Dr. Wahab Yinusa, said despite the strike, skeletal services were available, particularly to handle emergency cases.

Yinusa, who regretted the development said the strike called by the Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Lagos State could have been avoided.

He said: “Management has spoken to the doctors. We are not planning to discharge patients en-masse. In- patients will remain in-patients. The out patient clinic will not function, but we will see emergencies.

“For those who come, we will do what we can, but if the cases are too severe, we will  refer them.“

He expressed hope that the striking doctors would keep to the three days without extension because what was in place was logistics for the three days.

The situation was no different at other Federal institution across the state.
Reacting to the strike, Lagos State Chairman of NMA, Dr. Edamisan Temiye who confirmed that the strike was total in all the federal health institutions maintained that if no appreciable response was observed after Friday this week, the strike would take a different dimension.

Also in a telephone chat with Vanguard, immediate past Vice Chairman of the NMA national, Dr. Alam Taiwo who confirmed total support of the National body of the NMA warned that the strike had potential to spread along the Western zone to the Eastern zones of the nation. He was specific about States where  the new Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS) has not been implemented.

Lamenting that only Ondo State in the South West had implemented the salary structure, Taiwo  disclosed that an emergency delegates meeting of the NMA has been scheduled for 11th of November, 2010, to decide how the strike would take a national dimension.

“We are preparing to see how the strike will take a national dimension, that means all hospitals in Nigeria,. Government-owned hospitals will cease to work. We will also compel the private hospitals to join the strike. It is going to be 100 per cent total strike.”

On why Federal hospitals are joining the strike even when they are being paid CONMESS, he said, according to the Hippocratic Oath, “an injury to one is an injury to all.”

On the possibility of getting support of private doctors, he cited an instance of how doctors in the public health institution in the state stood up for their counterparts in Edo State, when the Governor placed what he described as an arbitrary tax on the private practitioners and how the tax was reversed within 24 hours.”

On protection of patients which the Medical Oath describes as their primary concern, he said  the primary protection lies with the government because we must have given the management and the government prior notice and enough time.

It is now left for them to ensure other means or measures to protect the patients while we are on strike. By giving the government enough time means that we have obliged that Hippocratic oath that says your patient shall be your primary concern.”

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