By Uduma Kalu
Can you quantify the cost of this strike?
Can you quantify the cost of death? Nobody can. The only thing is that you can talk of mortality rate. You can’t compare anything with death. If people die, it’s only…. It affected me personally. I have friends, I have relatives that died because of this strike.
We have doctors that died because of this strike. We have people that we knew that died because of this strike. It affected me also. I don’t like it. Nobody likes strikes, especially when you are talking about health workers’ strike. You can’t quantify life.
How can a doctor die when he saves others’ lives?
No! Do you mean if a doctor falls down now, is he going to resusitate himself? All your life depends on God. Doctors die. We only use the brain…. We use what we learnt to treat life.
You can treat yourself if it is milder. But if you are bleeding profusely, can’t you treat yourself. You can’t. If you have a cut, or you are unconscious, can you treat yourself? No, you go to hospital. We don’t have supernatural powers to do anything. Only God can do that.
You swore to The Hippocratic Oath. Now, you are asking for money. You have abandoned the oath. How do you reconcile that?
People keep taking about oath, oath.The Hippocratic Oath. Have you read it from the beginning to the end? People only read one phase of the oath that pertains to humanitarian service.
What about the other things? Are doctors not human beings? Am I differernt from you? Does he not go to the same market? Are we not having the same car, have the same children? Born by our parents?
We are all the same. Health is about mental and physical stability of the body. If the doctor is not physically or mentally stable— he can’t pay his kids school fees. He can’t pay rent.
He can’t drive good car. And when he comes, he is not stable because he is thinking of how to pay his rent. When he treats a patient, how will he treat him? The oath says the doctor should be in very stable condition in order to treat the patient very well.
Docors get to that condition when they are paid very well in terms of their welfare. It’s money and any other thing that them feel comfortable.
Why did you call off the strike?
We called off the strike because we had a mutual agreement with the state government pertaining to our demand: the issue of the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure (CONMESS), issue of the sack of our leader, Dr Olaifa, issue of taxation, issue of our withheld salary, issue of our union dues.
Government has been collecting our union dues. It remains the other issue and government has promised us to pay our withheld salaries. They told us they will pay us in the next 48 hours.
That’s why we called off our strike. Up till now, we are still trying to tell the government to pay the withheld salary because by Friday (yesterday), if it is not paid, we don’t have any option than to embark on another strike again or review our situation now.
The reason is that we want government to make sure that the withheld salry is paid and other agreements should be implemented for the interest of everybody in Nigeria.
What they have agreed is that they will review our taxation. For example call duty. All over the world they don’t tax call duty. Lagosstate government has been taxing call duty.
They are going to review it. our clinical allowance, call duty and other allowances. That was the agreement we had with the government about taxation.
Did you have to go on strike to achiebve all these.
Under normal conditions, it’s not good to go on strike, especially when you are taslking about health delvery. In a normal environment, health workers, even doctors, nurses, any health worker should not go on strike because what’s going to happen you can’t repair it back. Bvecause we are going to lose lives and nobody can replace lives.
That’s why it’s very importance that governance should comprise of trust, and if government say believe should belive that, but if government says people don’t believe them then they fault is from the government. It’s not good that people should go on strike.
Because if there is any strike, there must be a warning or an altimaum. And most of the governmernt will wait till the date of that ultimatum befor the respond.it’s very unfair on the poplulace, it’s very unfair on the system.
But Governor Fashola said you didn’t go through the normal procedure. He wasn’t informed before you went on strike.
I call tell you that about 30 something letters were written. We started writing the letters about two years ago pertaining to CONMESS. When we started the actual writing was from February this year. We wrote to the commissioner for health. We wrote to the governor. We wrote to the speaker. We wrote through the head of service.
It’s was the only response we got from them. The response we got from the commissioner for health was a threat. The response from the head of service, from chief of staff to the governor was that they would look into it. Since March, they didn’t look into anything until we went on strike.
That’s unfair. We had tried our possible best to avert thjis strike. Even there was a letter from nma, from nationasl preisednt of the natioal association of residdnt doctors until when we went on strike. even for them to address the problem, they went on strike, they took us to court, instead of resolving the problem.
Goivernment takes people to cour that means yiu are creating enmity. That issue aggravted the issue of the strike.
Why did you reject the 75 per cent of CONMESS?
The 75 per cent of CONMESS. what we are collecting now is 64-74 per cent of CONMESS. Some people are collecting 74 per cent of CONMESS. You are telling that person he should get only one per cent. Governmnent realised that mistake too.
So how far with the negotiation?
What we are saying is that they will pay CONMESS in full. There is no per centage in CONMESS. CONMESS is CONMESS And the principle behind CONMESS is that if any doctor is in Sokoto, kotongora, you are in a local government, in a village, you must collect the same amount of money.
Doctor is doctor. When you are taking patients, you don’t say am a doctor of Lagos state, or Kaduna. We treat patients as doctors. Everybody should get the same remuneration all over the country.
The Lagos government said federal government negotiated with its teaching hospital doctors and that CONMESS applied only to its doctors…
Most of the time, government always says it’s federal, federal. We have the National Salary and Wages Commission which comprises the federal, state and the local governments.
These are the people that deal with wages. And there is no circular that comes from the federal that the state government doesn’t know. The state government just decided that they are not going to follow it.
They should not be doing that. For example, when political officers are being paid some money, we never heard this was a federal law. Most of the salaries political officers are paid are from the federal government. Have you ever heard that state government said they are not going to pay?
What applies to them should be applied to the civil servants. They should not demarcate anything. Everybody knows we are in a federation. If there is federation, anybody that is in Lagos state, in a federal institution in Lagos state, are you saying we are inferior to a federal worker in the same state, and we are going to the same market?
Now that you went on strike asking for CONMESS, what about others like pharmacists, nurses? Will they they get?
Yes, everybody is asking. The pharmaicist, the nurses, they have what they call CONHESS.Ours is Consolidated Medical Salary Scheme.