By Bose Adelaja
For several weeks, it was a battle of wits, accusations and counter-accusations between the Lagos State government and medical doctors in the state over the inability of both parties to respect the terms of agreements signed by them.
While the face-off lasted, there were weeping and lamentations in many homes as the absence of doctors from their duty posts led to the death of many patients in public or government-owned hospitals. The development also left many low income Lagosians at the mercy of private hospitals who took advantage of the situation to charge exorbitant fees which only few could afford.
A case in point is Madam Simbiat Oloruntoba whose only child took ill and was rushed to Mainland Hospital. But the child gave up the ghost at the entrance of the hospital as he was refused admission by the health officials. Another victim of the strike, Rev (Major) Olubunmi Idowu, was discharged from an Indian hospital and returned to Nigeria to continue her medication but suddenly her ailment relapsed and she was rushed to the Ikeja General Hospital where she eventually died.
After announcing the sack of the striking doctors, the state government had subsequently employed some doctors from the private sector to replace them and stem the tide of serious health crisis, but the number employed was not enough to cope with the influx of distressed patients at most public hospitals or to provide succour to them.
So, it came as a big relief in the state when the strike was called off and the 788 dismissed medical doctors reinstated. The doctors resumed work on Monday June 4 after the State government issued a letter of reinstatement to them. So, for many suffering patients in the state, the storm is at last over.
Some Lagosians who bared their mind on the issue expressed satisfaction at the return of normal services at the various public hospitals.
A visit to some of these hospitals revealed normal activities in full swing. It was, however, found that some of the doctors are yet to fully resume to work, especially at the Isolo General Hospital where only few doctors were seen at work. Vanguard Metro, VM, investigations revealed that some of the doctors just walked in and out of the hospital without doing much, in spite of the volume of work pending since the strike.
As at the time of this report, patients’ turn out was low in some of these hospitals while the turn out was high in other hospitals.
During VM’s visit to Oke-Odo General Hospital last weekend, the turn out of patients was much such that some of the wards could not accommodate a number of them. A salon operator who simply gave his name as Mr. Kush said he was happy the strike has been called off. “I brought my aged mother for treatment here; a doctor at a private hospital had earlier asked us to deposit N30,000 before she could be attended to. Now that the strike is over, she can joyfully register at a public hospital without stress. I am happy the strike is over,” he said.
A mother of Three who did not want her name in print told VM she was initially admitted at the General Hospital, Oke-Odo where she received First Aid Treatment after which she was referred to LASUTH but after 24 hours of less attention, she was referred to Ikeja General Hospital and was there for 24 hours without a specialist to attend to her inspite of her ailment that requires full time admission in bed.
According to her, she was placed on a bench for 24 hours where the nurses only administered drip on her. The situation infuriated her family and made her sister come all the way from Abuja to ask for her discharge her.”This is not encouraging for a mega state-owned hospital as it negates the claim of ‘health is wealth’,” she said.
The strike action somehow brought unexpected benefits. For instance, it provided opportunities for some unemployed physicians thereby boosting the number of medical doctors in Lagos. A visit to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital LASUTH, Surulere General Hospital and Ajeromi General Hospital revealed that the call off of the strike brought many patients rushing to the hospitals and such that the various wards are occupied and the doctors are now seeking for more hospital beds.
Although investigations have revealed that some of these hospitals have been rehabilitated but the state government will need to go extra mile to build more hospitals and provide bed space. This will enable the government to meet up with its earlier promise to deliver effective and efficient health services to its citizens.