By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
The Minister of Health, Professor Christian Onyebuchi Chukwu, Thursday lambasted striking doctors in Lagos and their counterparts across the nation saying that doctors found picketing their colleagues should be locked up or have their licences withdrawn.
Chukwu, who also expressed dissatisfaction over the incessant strikes by medical doctors in Nigeria said that strike was no longer fashionable in the health sector.
Chukwu who spoke at the inauguration of the Avian Influenza Laboratory and Treatment Centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH, said the instability in the nation’s health sector occasioned by strikes was becoming worrisome in the last five years.
Chukwu further condemned the attitude of some doctors who picket hospitals during strikes, saying they should not disturb their colleagues who were ready to work even as he recommended severe sanction against such doctors.
“Any doctor found doing this should be locked up and have his license withdrawn. If we complain that this country is not moving forward, I think we should all share part of the blame. The health sector needs human capacity to work. Even this project may not work if we do not change our attitude”, he added.
According to Chukwu announcement of industrial action by health workers was no longer news to him. His words, “It has become an everyday thing. It is like saying I want to have my breakfast. The only thing that can be news to me now is if the workers said they have decided to make the sector work by allowing peace to reign. In the past five years, the health sector has suffered severe setbacks and instability.
When workers say they want to go on strike it is no longer news to me. What will be news to me- is if they say, we want to work and make things happen. When unions say that the government is not doing well, they should ask themselves what they have done to contribute or stop the damage in the system.”
The minister further remarked that the resolution of dispute in the health sector is a continuous thing adding that it is not possible in a day. “We can make progress step by step.
Speaking on the ongoing strike over the consolidated Salary structure, (CONMESS), the minister pointed out that state governments are free to pay what they can afford since the country is not running a unitary system of government.
He further advised workers who are on strike to stay away from the hospitals to avoid disturbing those who are ready to work.
“Despite Federal Government efforts to equip its hospitals through the provision modern infrastructures, unstable man power could cripple those facilities. The health sector is a human driven sector, if workers are on strike then the facilities are useless. It will be sad if tomorrow this laboratory does not work because health workers are on strike.”
Continuing, the Minister also disclosed that the federal government has concluded arrangements to establish the Nigerian version of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in line with its objectives of disease prevention and surveillance.
He said the commissioning marked the beginning of a new era that would herald the functionality of the treatment centre as well as the Avian Influenza Laboratory, which will further strengthen disease surveillance through laboratory services within the south western region of the country.