By Simon Ebegbulem
BENIN—EDO State Government and the state chapter of Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, yesterday, engaged in war of words over the 21-day ultimatum issued by NMA for government to heed to its demands or members will cripple the state health sector.
While the governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Obaseki, described NMA’s demands as unrealistic and vowed not to be blackmailed, NMA accused the governor of insensitivity and insincerity in addressing the problems in the health sector, insisting on going ahead with the planned strike action at the expiration of the 21-day ultimatum.
Governor Obaseki had, at the inauguration of the members of the Board of the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, UBTH, at Government House, disclosed plans by the state government to employ the services of private health care providers to offer essential services to patients in state government hospitals.
Obaseki said: “We believe that the doctors’ demands are unrealistic, having been part of the steps taken so far to improve the conditions of service of medical doctors in the state. They see what we are doing and yet have threatened to go on strike because I cannot afford to fulfill 100 percent of their demands.”
We’ve heard from govt—NMA
However, reacting in a statement by the Chairman of NMA, Dr. Emmanuel Osaigbovo, and Secretary, Dr. Omokhua, the doctors described the governor’s alleged threat as laughable, saying “up till now, there has been no communication to NMA by the government since the issuance of the ultimatum.
“One would have expected the Edo State Government to seek immediate solutions to the issues raised by NMA instead of resorting to cheap blackmail and threats.
“The Edo State Government says that our demands are unrealistic. If we may ask, what is unrealistic in asking that you employ more doctors to man the 34 health facilities in the state so that our people can get better care?
“What is unrealistic in asking for better facilities in the hospitals to enable the health personnel make better evaluation, diagnosis and consequent management of patients? What is unrealistic in asking for an equitable and encouraging remuneration for the demoralised Edo State health workforce?”
… to employ private doctors
NMA described the plan by the governor to employ private doctors as “quite laughable as the doctors will probably have to come with their personal x-ray units, theatres, decent consulting rooms, drugs, laboratory equipment or maybe build new hospital because these things are grossly lacking in Edo State.
“Even the best of trained hands will be handicapped in the discharge of their duties in Edo State due to lack of working materials and equipment.
“The private doctors to be employed will have to be from Uganda, Togo, Lesotho or India, who will perform operations with candle or torchlights and who will work for days and weeks without rest because there is inadequate manpower.”