By Sola Ogundipe, OLASUNKANMI AKONI & Chioma Obinna
AS the strike called by the Medical Guild, doctors under employment of Lagos State Government enters its third day; the State government has offered to pick up the bills of patients referred from its hospitals to private hospitals.
To this end, the state government has identified some private hospitals that could offer secondary care to serve as rescue centres for patients in critical conditions who cannot be handled at the state owned-hospitals due to the strike.
Two hospitals around Ikeja area of Lagos, Shepherd Medical Centre and Unity Hospital, have been designated by the state government to treat all referral cases from LASUTH.
Addressing journalists on services available at LASUTH, the Chief Medical Director, Prof Adewale Oke, who said the decision of government was to forestall loss of lives as a result of the industrial action, however, confirmed that no life has been lost at the hospital since the strike began.
His words: “The Ministry of Health has identified some private hospitals all over Lagos for this rescue mission. But Unity Hospital and Shepherd Medical Centre will handle referral cases from LASUTH and Lagos State government will foot the bill.”
Oke noted that the rescue centres had become necessary because the state-owned hospitals can no longer run full hospital services as a result of the strike and skeletal services rendered by some consultants was like a drop in the ocean.
Explaining the situation at LASUTH, he said: “Since the strike started the hospital has made necessary arrangements to ensure that emergency cases and patients in the wards are taken care of. What we have done here is to ensure that emergency departments are running. We have a fair coverage to ensure that no life was lost unnecessarily.”
Oke who said that at least two or more consultants (senior doctors) were stationed in all the departments since the strike started, added: “To sustain emergency services we posted some consultants to run the Surgical Emergency unit, Paediatric Emergency unit, Out-patient Emergency unit and other emergency units in the hospital. We hope that by the end of the warning strike, dialogue between doctors and government will yield results so as to prevent continuation of the action.
“Doctors erred in execution of the strike by not following the labour law by issuing the government at least 15 days notice before downing tools. Government was only given a day notice before the action which is not the procedure.”
Explaining the bone of contention, he said the Consolidated Medical Salary Scale, CONMESS, which is the major issue for the strike, was already being paid in Lagos at the same level with federal government, “but we cannot implement it step by step across the levels because of the large number of doctors in Lagos state employment.”
Speaking, Director of Clinical Services and Training, LASUTH, the Dr Bode Ogunbanji, said that the biggest challenge Lagos State had in implementing any salary structure including CONMESS was number of doctors in its employment which he claimed was bigger than that of other states.
On why there were no ward rounds yesterday, he said: “When you have an emergency situation like this, you do not expect to have ward rounds, if there is any emergency, the management team will be called to attend to the cases that require emergency care. They will call me or any other management staff to sort it out. Nothing like that happened yesterday. You cannot run ward round in all the departments in emergency to send a team of doctors to take care of the situation.”
On heavy presence of armed policemen, he said they were there to prevent any eventuality and not to arrest anybody. However, a walk round the hospitals, yesterday, revealed that the heavy presence of the police witnessed on day one of the strike had disappeared. But patient load has drastically reduced. Patients in Lagos have continued to face hard times as many patients facing ill health conditions, which visited public hospitals to seek health care were turned back from hospitals due to the non availability of doctors to attend to them.
When Vanguard visited the Lagos State University Teaching Hospitals (LASUTH), Ikeja, yesterday, only emergency cases requiring urgent medical attention, were being attended to by a few consultant doctors who were assisted by nurses and other medical workers.
Similarly, at the General Hospital Lagos, Isolo General Hospitals, General Hospital, SuruLere, and others, the situation was the same, but the large number of patients who used to swarm the hospitals was drastically reduced.
Investigations revealed that the patients stayed away following the news of the doctors’ strike. Many of the patients are now seeking healthcare in private and Federal Government owned hospitals.