LAGOS— AS the strike called by the National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, enters the second day, yesterday, the Federal Government has commenced moves to get the striking doctors back to work, even as more state chapters of NARD joined the strike.
In line with this development,Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, along with the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, and officials of the Federal Ministry of Health, are holding a conciliatory meeting with executives of NARD, Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, and other stakeholders today.
Meanwhile, the National body of the striking doctors has explained the rationale behind the ongoing strike, saying they were tired of hearing “I will do this” from government, even as the Federal Government ordered heads of hospitals to employ part-time doctors as stopgap measure while the strike is in progress.
Special Technical Adviser to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Mrs Clara Dike, who disclosed this, said the meeting was expected to address the salient issues around the agitations of the doctors.
FG meet NARD, NMA, others today
“Doctors are not supposed to go on strike because their profession is among essential services. We are still engaging them and we have commenced moves to get them back to work. We have scaled up the meeting for Wednesday (today) by 1pm.
“We have issued them notice and all the stakeholders will be there to meet them, not minding the provisions of Section 18 of the Act that they are on essential services and ought not to go on strike,” she said.
Dike who said the strike came as a surprise, noted that the NARD executives had met with the Ministry of Labour last week.
She said: “They met with us on the 27th of August notifying us that they were about to embark on a strike and the Minister of Labour and Employment held a meeting with them on Thursday, August 31.
“We agreed on literally everything they brought on board and we were all on the same page. So, we were surprised that they had to do a U-turn. We were fully confident that they were going to suspend the strike because we agreed on everything being stated.
We’re tired of ‘I will do this’ from govt — NARD
But in a response, Secretary-General of NARD, Dr Aneke Emmanuel, said they embarked on the strike because their members were tired of hearing ‘I will do this’ from government.
According to him, “what we want to hear is that ‘I have done this.’”
Emmanuel, who pleaded with the general public to bear with them, said the inaction of the Federal Government made them embark on strike. He explained that they were ready to honour government’s invitation for the meeting slated for today by 1pm.
FG orders heads of hospitals to employ Locum doctors
Meanwhile, Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has directed CMDs/MDs of federal hospitals to immediately engage the services of Locum Doctors (part-time) to augment the services of consultants, NYSC doctors and doctors on internship, pending the resolution of the strike.
This was contained in a circular Ref. No. C. 3132/Vol. V/116, of September 5, 2017, addressed to all CMDs/MDs of federal tertiary health institutions across the country.
The directive was to further provide additional support to the Federal Government hospitals to strengthen service delivery.
Our doors are open to patients—LUTH mgt
Although, some of the aggrieved doctors were sighted in the hospital premises, consultants and senior management doctors, including other cadre of doctors who are not members of NARD, were attending to patients. The beehive of activities was still in sight. Other medical workers were also sighted at their duty posts.
As at 9:30 AM when Vanguard visited LUTH, most of the clinics were already opened and filled with patients who were taking turns to see the doctors.
A cancer patient who spoke on condition of anonymity to Vanguard, confirmed that she was attended to by a doctor.
Another patient, a pregnant woman ,who simply identified herself as Gloria, said: “I was at the hospital for my regular antenatal visit and I have been attended to.”
Reacting to the situation at the hospital, Chairman, Medical Advisory Committee, Dr Olufemi Fasanmade, assured patients that adequate arrangements had been made to ensure continuity of services.
We’ll remain with our national body’s directives —LUTH-ARD
In a chat with Vanguard, President, LUTH-ARD, Dr. Sekumade Adebayo, said: “Our national body’s demands are very clear and that is our position. We have been engaging the Federal Government since 2014 but up till now, we have not made any head way concerning the resolutions.
A hungry, angry doctor is a risk to a patient —NOHIL–ARD President
At the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, NOHIL, although there were not many patients at the time Vanguard visited the hospital, consultants and other health workers were seen attending to the few patients at the outpatient department.
But the President, NOHIL-ARD, Dr. Olawale Ige, claimed that the strike was total, saying no resident doctor is working.”
Families evacuate patients in some states
Resident doctors in Bayelsa State, yesterday, withdrew their services in compliance with the strike. At the Federal Medical Centres, Yenagoa and Otuoke, the medical doctors on duty were only offering skeletal services. Families were seen moving out patients as there were no doctors to attend to them.
In Kano State, the strike was total at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, and National Orthopedic Hospital, Kano, and the few consultants that reported for duty were overwhelmed by patients at the General Outpatients Department, GOPD.
Some patients opted to be discharged to seek succour at private clinics. At the time of visit to the two health facilities, many departments were devoid of the usual activity.
In Maiduguri, Borno State, the strike worsened the plight of the Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, that required medical attention. The few health workers on duty were overwhelmed by the high number of patients.
When Vanguard visited the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, UMTH around noon yesterday, only the nurses and other health workers were providing skeletal services, while members of the state’s ARD branch were in a closed door meeting.
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi, the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Anthony Igewgbe, told Vanguard that their ARD had joined the strike, but that medical service delivery was not grounded in the hospital.
He said consultants and medical officers were attending to patients, thereby making the impact of the strike by NARD in the hospital not badly felt.
Resident doctors at the Delta State University Teaching Hospital, DELSUTH, Oghara, Delta State, also joined the strike. Only consultants and House Officers who are mostly junior doctors, were seen on ground and they were observed discharging patients to enable them join the strike.
President of the ARD, UBTH branch, Dr Eustace Oseghale, said the strike was 100 per cent compliant.
Resident doctors at the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, UCTH, Neuropsychiatric Hospital joined the strike.
When Vanguard visited the two hospitals, the usual busy traffic had reduced, while many people who were not aware of the strike were stranded.
Although no patient was turned back at the time of the visit, it was gathered that the managements of the hospitals were trying to use consultants to keep the hospitals going.
State hospitals in Calabar shun strike
However, resident doctors in state hospitals in Calabar shunned the strike and reported for duty at the General Hospital and at the Infectious Diseases Hospital, IDH, both in Calabar.
In Adamawa, the strike was in full compliance as the resident doctors stayed away from duty. When Vanguard visited the Federal Medical Centre Yola, and the state Specialist Hospital, consultants, senior doctors, House Officers and nurses had taken over the jobs of the resident doctors.
Chairman of the Sokoto State branch of the ARD, Dr. Abdullahi Sakkwatto Shehu, confirmed that members of the association in the state had also joined the strike.
“We have fully joined the strike as directed by our national body. I am telling you that our members in all hospitals are binded by the resolutions of the national body and are on strike,” he told Vanguard in a telephone conversation.
Resident doctors divided in Anambra
However, resident doctors in Anambra State were divided over strike. Those at the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu Teaching Hospital, Awka defied the strike but their colleagues at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, Nnewi and those at the General Hospital, Onitsha, fully joined the strike.
When Vanguard visited the state-owned Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital, the resident doctors were at their duty posts attending to patients in all the departments.
Chief Medical Director of the hospital said the hospital had a peculiar issue, which was why the resident doctors there were not part of the strike.
He said: “We have a peculiar situation here and with the understanding of the resident doctors, we are not on strike.
“There is, therefore, no strike in Amaku. As you can see, the doctors are in the consulting rooms attending to patients.”he said.
The situation was, however, different at the General Hospital in Onitsha as the resident doctors were not on duty. The consultants were, however, seen attending to patients with the attendant queue in the various departments.
At the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi , the Chief Medical Director, Prof. Anthony Igwegbe, told Vanguard that members of NARD in the hospital joined the strike, but medical service delivery was not grounded because the Consultants and Medical Officer working in the hospital were attending to patients, thereby making the impact of the strike by NARD in the hospital minimal.
In Benue, the strike crippled medical services in public hospitals. When Vanguard visited the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, in Makurdi. Out-patients were seen stranded as most doctors who usually attend to them were not on seat, while some admitted patients were seen moving out of the health facility.
The situation was not different at Benue State University Teaching Hospital, BSUTH, Makurdi where Resident Doctors had their meeting early in the day and resolved to comply fully with the action.
In most public hospitals in Akwa Ibom State, people were seen moving their patients out of hospitals.
At the University of Uyo Teaching Hospital (UUTH) a patient rushed to the hospital was denied admission.
A source told Vanguard that it was needless admitting patients when they would not get proper medical attention.
A relative to one of the patient in the male ward who gave his name as Hope Samuel, told Vanguard that he was making arrangements to move his father away from the hospital since medical doctors were not around to attend to his medical needs .