By Tony Edike
The management Board of the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, UNTH, Enugu headed by Professor Okey Mbonu, has waded into the industrial disputewhich forced about 140 Consultants in the hospital to withdraw clinical servicessince May 5.
Medical services at the permanent site of the hospital at Ituku-Ozalla had been partially paralyzed since the consultants commenced the two-week old strike as the Registrars, Resident Doctors and Nurses left behind only render skeletal services to patients, some of who had been transferred to private hospitals in Enugu.
Disturbed by the negative impact of the industrial action on the hospital, the UNTH Management Board Chairman and the newly appointed Chief Medical Director, Dr. Christopher Amah, were said to have contacted officials of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria, MDCAN, UNTH chapter to seek ways of resolving the dispute.
An official of the association told Vanguard yesterday that negotiation meetings had been scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday this week to enable both the management and the aggrieved consultants hold talks on the disputed allowances which had been outstanding since 2001 with a view to reaching amicable resolution.
But the outgoing Chief Medical Director, Dr. Tony Mbah whose tenure expires today, May 17, had dismissed the consultants’ demand for improved pay as “illegitimate” saying that there was no approval for such.
Dr. Mbah said that the strike declared by a faction of MDCAN in the hospital was illegal, adding that their demand for improved allowances based on the Consolidated Medical Salary Structure, CONMESS which came into effect in January last year, was illegitimate because there was no establishment circular authorizing payment of such benefits.
The outgoing CMD who claimed that MDCAN was not a recognized association in the hospital because it’s leadership was factionalized , explained that Consultants in UNTH had been functioning under the umbrella of “Body of Consultants” and not the MDCAN, whose leaders “unilaterally” took the decision to embark on strike without minding the consequences of such action on the people that access medical services in the hospital.
He said: “It is not true that the Medical and Dental Consultants in UNTH are on strike. It is just a faction which believes that they can fight now that I have completed my second term as CMD. I believe they are out to cause confusion but they forgot that people (patients) will die if not attended to.
“They said they have been making this demand since 2001, why have they decided to proceed on strike only seven days to my exit? I am sure that even the incoming administration cannot grant them the allowance they are demanding because it is illegitimate.”
The CMD explained that since there was no establishment circular legalizing payment of the contentious allowance, the hospital management cannot implement it as doing so would amount to a financial crime.
According to the CMD, he held a crucial meeting with the consultants prior to the strike on the issue where they agreed that the management had no authority to pay what they are demanding but that they would seek ways of remedying the situation, and wondered why the MDCAN members should go ahead to withdraw their services.